What is glue ear?

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Glue ear develops once liquid within the ear thickens like glue. The condition often occurs after repeated ear infections and can affect hearing and result to other conditions. If a child or adult is suspected with this condition, a doctor should be consulted.


Glue ear occurs once liquid within the middle ear ends up trapped and turns into a dense glue-like liquid. This condition is medically called as otitis media with effusion. The condition is quite common among young children and can last for weeks or months and affects hearing, speech, behavior and learning.

What are the possible causes?

Glue ear
Glue ear occurs once liquid within the middle ear ends up trapped and turns into a dense glue-like liquid.

Glue ear is due to blockage of a small-sized tube in the ear, specifically the Eustachian tube. Once fluid is trapped within this tube, it eventually thickens. In most instances, it often occurs after a common cold or the flu.

The condition can develop after recurrent middle ear infections. Children who live in a household where other members smoke are more predisposed to develop the condition than those who do not.

What are the indications of a glue ear?

Oftentimes, there are no evident indications of a glue ear, thus it is essential to have the child’s ears regularly checked. An individual with the condition might have the following:

  • Issues with hearing such as turning up the volume of the TV
  • Balance issues
  • Irritability
  • Sensation of pressure or pain in the affected ear
  • Issues with sleeping

If there are any issues with the ears, a doctor should be consulted so that further assessment can be carried out.

How is it diagnosed

Glue ear is readily diagnosed by the doctor. The doctor will simply check inside the affected area using an instrument called an otoscope. In some cases, the hearing of the individual is also tested.


Once a child or adult has been diagnosed with the ear condition, the doctor might decide to “watch and wait” since it often subsides. In case there is an ear infection, antibiotics are usually given to help clear up the fluid.

In case issues such as hearing loss persist within a few months, the treatment involving the placement of tiny tubes known as grommets might be recommended. During the operation, grommets are implanted into the ears to facilitate the drainage of the fluid.

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