Glue ear is a very common condition that occurs frequently in children, wherein excess fluids accumulate in the middle ear, the portion of the hearing organs situated behind the eardrum. This ailment develops more in children than in adults because the eustachian tubes in the inner ears of young kids are very narrow when compared to those of older people and are thus susceptible to getting blocked with secretions.
Medically termed as adhesive otitis, secretory otitis media or OME (otitis media with effusion), glue ear can result in serious complications of grave infection in the middle ear and even partial hearing loss in children if the symptoms are not reported promptly to a doctor. This illness can impact either one ear at a time or occur in both ears simultaneously, with a chunky sticky secretion similar to glue collecting in the middle ear and hence being termed generally as glue ear.
Causes Of Glue Ear:
The major reasons behind glue ear in children is usual sicknesses, such as the common cold, fever, bacterial or viral infection. Additionally, specific allergies due to external weather conditions might also trigger adhesive otitis in kids.
As a result, the space within the eustachian tubes, which is normally packed only with air, begins to accrue surplus fluids while also undergoing inflammation, with faulty narrow structures from contracting. This sometimes impacts the sense of balance in the body and leads to hearing loss, due to eustachian tube dysfunction.
Certain aspects make children more prone to acquiring glue ear, such as:
- Being very young in age, as in kids below 2 years
- Inhaling harmful vapours such as tobacco smoke
- Residing in surroundings with many germs and pollutants
- Having close family members with a medical history of ear infections
- During specific seasons, such as winter, autumn, when more pathogenic microbes gather and clog the middle ear
The distinguishing symptoms of glue ear or adhesive otitis in children are primarily associated with hearing difficulties and include:
- Speaking in a much louder tone compared to their normal voice
- Problems in clearly hearing people from farther distances or when they converse in normal volumes
- Unable to process sounds from electronic gadgets unless at relatively high volumes
- Encounters a lingering ringing sensation in the ears i.e. tinnitus
- Pain in the ear with swelling and discomfort, like in otomycosis
If the parents notice signs of hearing difficulties and ear pain in their children, it is reported to a physician who performs an ear exam in the clinic. This is done using a magnifying scope with a bright light affixed, to view the internal structures of the ear clearly and spot any areas of clogged fluid secretions.
The healthcare professional also determines the extent of fluid accumulation in the middle ear, whether it has progressed to an ear infection and if it has affected hearing abilities in the child.
Treatment for glue ear is based on how often the child encounters the problem and if they are facing any challenges in hearing. Minor instances of glue ear tend to dissolve on their own and those which present slight infections are resolved by ingesting prescription antibiotics given by the doctor. Severe instances of glue ear in children negatively influence their speech and language skills, as well as hamper their hearing abilities and require assistive technology of hearing aids as well as consulting with counsellors to take up speech therapy sessions.
When glue ear persists in children and recurs even after treatment, it is a chronic condition that requires surgery to treat the illness. An invasive procedure called adenoidectomy is performed, which involves surgically removing the adenoid gland situated behind the nose, as it triggers fluid accumulation in the middle ear in children. These treatment procedures ensure that optimal hearing is restored in children.