Hearing Problems & Glue Ear
Middle ear is most commonly affected part of the ear. In healthy children, the middle ear is filled with air, but if your child has an infection or any diseases, fluid or mucous will get accumulated.
Hearing problems can be congenital or acquired. Congenital causes include genetic defects, prematurity, maternal diabetes, lack of oxygen supply to the fetus. Acquired causes include ear infections, meningitis, measles, noise exposure, chicken pox, influenza, head injury, and overuse of ototoxic drugs. Hearing problems can be temporary or permanent.
In children, hearing problems are not easily noticed until the age of 12 to 18 months. Hearing problems in new born can be diagnosed with hearing screening test and all the new born babies should undergo hearing screening before the age of 1 month. One of the conditions that cause hearing loss is glue ear.
Glue ear is a condition of excessive accumulation of thick-fluid or glue in the ear instead of air. This glue-like fluid interrupts the passage of sound into the ear leading to deafness. It most commonly affects young children and if untreated it leads to hearing loss.
Children are at more risk of developing glue ear because their eustachian tube is small in size and can get blocked easily. If your child is allergic to pets or dust then the risk of developing glue ear is higher because inflammation caused by the allergic reaction results in swelling and blockade of the eustachian tube.
Infection and enlargement of the adenoid glands situated at the back of the nose and throat may block the eustachian tube and cause glue ear.
Common symptoms of ear problems such as pain or swelling may not be evident in children with glue ear. Your child will not be able to hear properly because of the blockage by glue like fluid. Because of hearing loss, your child may not be able to pay attention or interact with others. Your child may also experience problems while talking.
Diagnosis and treatment
Your pediatric ENT doctor primarily examines your child's ear by an instrument called otoscope. In addition an audiogram (to check if your child can hear) and tympanogram (to check how flexible the eardrum is at different pressures) may also be ordered to assess the condition.
Several options are available for the management of glue ear.
Antibiotics are the main stay of treatment for glue ear if infection persists. Anti- allergic medications, and decongestants may also be prescribed. These drugs should be taken regularly for 2 weeks. The course of antibiotics should be completed and should not be stopped if the symptoms subside.
Surgery is considered to be the last remedy option if the medicines do not improve the condition. The surgical procedure is called as myringotomy where a small incision is made in your child's eardrum to drain out the fluid. Ventilation tubes (grommets) or tympanostomy tubes are inserted into the incision created which allows the air to pass in and out. It also helps to improve hearing by clearing the fluid in the ear drum.
Surgery may also be done to remove the enlarged adenoid gland (adenoidectomy) but this procedure alone does not improve your child's hearing unless grommets are also inserted.
In many children, the glue ear will resolve on its own without taking any measures. Until glue ear is completely subsided, your ENT doctor may recommend temporary hearing aids which can be taken off after the glue ear heals with consent from your ENT doctor.