While you may not have heard of glue ear, it’s a common condition that is defined by fluid building up within the middle ear, or the space directly behind the eardrum. It’s also known by its medical name: otitis media with effusion (OME) or sometimes secretory otitis media. It mostly affects children and comes after an ear infection, though there are other causes, and it has been seen in adults before. It’s typically temporary, though long-term complications associated with glue ear may impact your hearing health. Since glue ear is so common in children, let’s take a closer look at its symptoms, causes, and what you should do about it.
What Causes It?
We most commonly see glue ear develop after a child gets an ear infection. The fluid that builds up during an infection can end up remaining even once the infection is gone. There are other causes of this condition as well, though, including a blockage in the Eustachian tubes, colds, flus, allergies, enlarged adenoids (the glands near your ears, where the throat meets the nasal passage), irritants, genetic conditions, clef palates, GERD (chronic acid reflux), drinking while lying down, or an increase in air pressure like you might get from flying.
What Are the Symptoms?
The first and most obvious symptom of glue ear is hearing loss. It may impact one or both ears and can feel a bit like you’re wearing earplugs. If untreated, prolonged hearing loss can potentially lead to speech delays or how children develop their language skills. It’s not uncommon for sufferers of glue ear to experience pain in their ear or even buzzing and ringing sounds, similar to those experienced by those with tinnitus. If you have a small child who has difficulties telling you what’s wrong, you may need to look for other symptoms like changes in behavior, sleepiness, lack of concentration, feeling disconnected, asking you what you said over and over, turning the volume up too loud on the TV or music players, or talking louder than usual.
How is Glue Ear Treated?
As bad as glue ear may sound, it will typically go away on its own, and most healthcare providers will wait up to several months to see if the fluid clears up. If not, it may be time for antibiotics or specialized surgeries called myringotomy (where a cut is made to allow fluid to drain and tubes are put in the ears) or adenoidectomy (where enlarged adenoids are removed). If there are any long-term complications associated with glue ear, you may be advised to use hearing aids.
Trust the Experts at Clarity Audiology & Hearing Solutions
Need help with your hearing? Clarity Hearing can help. Clarity Audiology & Hearing Solutions is an independently owned and operated clinic that focuses on quality of care and personalized, friendly service to the surrounding areas of Ellicott City, Catonsville, Columbia. Our Doctors of Audiology are highly trained with advanced degrees and take the time to provide the personalized care and attention that you need and deserve. We provide advanced hearing aid options that are personally calibrated with cutting-edge digital technology to fit your hearing loss, your unique ear anatomy, and your individual listening needs.