Otitis Media (Glue Ear)
Introduction to Otitis Media (Glue Ear)
Otitis Media with Effusion (OME or Glue Ear) is when the middle ear fills with fluid instead of air.
What is Otitis Media?
Otitis Media with Effusion (OME or Glue Ear) is when the middle ear fills with fluid instead of air. It can affect either one ear or both ears. The fluid dampens the vibrations created by sound so the volume of hearing is lower. This condition usually occurs in young children, however can occur at any age. It is also known as otitis media with effusion (OME). It is most common between ages 1 and 6, boys are more commonly affected than girls.
What are the causes for Otitis Media?
If the Eustachian tube is narrow or blocked the amount of fluid and air in the middle ear becomes altered. Air in the middle ear may not be replaced by air in the coming up the Eustachian tube. This creates a vacuum, which may cause fluid to enter the middle ear from nearby cells.
What are the symptoms of Otitis Media?
Dulled hearing is the main symptom for this condition. The severity of hearing loss varies depending on the thickness of the fluid, however the hearing never goes completely. Mild earache may also occur; this may cause babies or children to pull their ear. Ear infections are also more common in children with glue ear as the fluid provides a good environment for bacteria. If dulled hearing occurs for a long time it can lead to a delayed speech and language development. Many children only have symptoms for a short period of time. Hearing is usually back to normal in 3 months in 50% of cases.
How is Otitis Media treated?
Wait and see is usually the first step for this condition. If after 3 months the glue ear has not cleared, further action may be required. Balloon treatment is when the child blows up a balloon using their nose. This helps to open the Eustation tube in the ear to allow better drainage of fluid. Surgery is the final option for treating glue ear. This involves making a small cut in the eardrum to allow drainage of fluid. A grommet (ventilation tube) is usually inserted into the child’s ear to allow air to get into the middle ear. Hearing aids are also an alternative option to surgery for children with glue ear.