Are you troubled that your toddler is not talking like the other toddlers of his age? A delay in speech and language development could be linked to an underlying ear disorder. Hearing is critical in the development of normal speech and language. Sometimes the condition goes undetected because the symptoms are subtle. If your child is not attempting to talk or respond when called by name, it could be that he is short of hearing. Glue ear is one such disorder that results in a loss of hearing. As parents, you should not overlook this condition.
What is Glue Ear?
Glue ear, which is medically termed as adhesive otitis is when the middle ear gets filled with fluid. When sticky fluid which looks like glue, gets filled up in the space, behind the ear drum, it can lead to a loss of hearing. Thus, the layman’s term, glue ear is derived based on the nature of this disease. Pediatric glue ear is very common, forming 20% of the cases in pre-schoolers. In addition, 8 out of 10 kids are prone to this condition before their 10th birthday.
Glue ear, is generally linked to an ear infection either affecting one or both ears. When your child is affected by an ear infection, fluid tends to gather behind the ear drum lasting for a couple of weeks. Failure of this collected fluid to drain back down, through the ear tubes to the back of the throat (Eustachian tube) leads to a temporary loss of hearing. If the condition persists becoming chronic, it can lead to a permanent loss of hearing.
What are the symptoms of Glue Ear?
Paediatric glue ear can go unnoticed. Kids with glue ear may appear as any regular child with no complaints at all. Young children may not know well if they have loss of hearing so as a parent, you should look out to see if :
· Your child is talking louder than usual
· Ignoring your requests
· Wants you to repeat what you said
· Has a difficulty to hear the television at normal volume
· Pulling of his ear lobes
· Increases the volume of electronic devices
· Complaints of a ringing sensation or pain in the ear
If one or more of these signs are observed, it is best to visit a kids ENT doctor. Due to reduced hearing, children can show delayed speech and behavioural problems. Irritation, aggression and lack of focus may be underlying signs of frustration due to shortness in hearing.
How is glue ear diagnosed in children?
It is a good practice to have a regular consultation with a pediatric ENT specialist to examine your child’s ear health. Glue ear is often detected by your ENT doctor when your child fails a hearing test. The doctor will ask a couple of questions to understand your child’s health and perform an ear examination to inspect the underlying condition.
· ENT doctors use an otoscope to understand the anatomy of your child’s ear. This instrument has a good light source with a magnifying lens, to view your child’s ear canal. Any clogging with fluid would be visible.
· Tympanometry is another way, ENT doctors check glue ear. Although it is not equivalent to a hearing test, tympanometry checks if your child’s ear drum is able to move back and forth. An ear clogged with fluid will not have a moving ear drum giving a negative tympanometry test.
A hearing test or a pure tone audiogram too might be recommended by your doctor to investigate the level of hearing in your child. Audiograms are only applicable for children above the age of 4 years to assess the severity of loss of hearing.
Singapore, is a country which provides good medical facilities for childrens’ ENT disorders. One of the most sought after medical practices is The ENT Clinic which has a strong focus in paediatric ENT.
What is the treatment for Glue Ear?
The treatment for your child’s glue ear will depend on the duration and severity of the disease. In most cases your ENT specialist will try to manage the glue ear conservatively. For most kids this condition might settle on its own, but visiting an ENT doctor would be a recommended option. Children with prolonged episodes with severe loss of hearing might need immediate surgical intervention. The ENT clinic executes these surgical procedures safely and effectively.
§ Conservative Management of the disease uses antibiotics to clear the ear infection along with local or systemic anti-histamines and decongestants. These help to reduce the congestion in the Eustachian tube. Palatal exercises like ‘balloon blowing’ or ‘chewing gum’ facilitates the clearance of the fluid built by opening the Eustachian tube, improving middle ear aeration.
§ Surgical Management is needed in cases when conservative management fails. In this case, tiny plastic tubes or ventilators called grommets are inserted into your child’s ear during a simple and safe surgical procedure. This way the build-up of fluid is prevented.
Prevention of glue ear is rather difficult in young children, but helping your child stay healthy, boosting his immunity can be the first step towards prevention. As parents, your timely intervention can help minimise the occurrence of glue ear.