What Is Glue Ear?
Glue ear, also known as adhesive otitis, is a condition that occurs when the middle part of your ear is filled with fluid. It is located behind the eardrum. The liquid can be thick and sticky, like glue. It commonly occurs in children but can also develop in adults.
What Are The Symptoms Of Glue Ear?
The patient with glue ear may experience the following symptoms:
- The person starts to talk louder than usual.
- Difficulty in hearing other peoples normal voices.
- Asking people to repeat what they said again and again.
- Increasing the volume of electronic equipment than usual.
- Complains about ringing or buzzing in their ears
- Loss of interest in sounds
- Not listening to instructions or engaging
- Disturbed sleep.
What Are The Causes Of Glue Ear?
The glue ear happens when thick fluid builds up inside your middle ear. As with general ear infections, glue ear tends to be more common in children. It is because the Eustachian tubes deep inside the ear are narrower than an adult’s and more prone to becoming clogged. These tubes are responsible for helping the ear maintain a healthy space free of excess fluids.
Following are some of the causes of clogging:
- Cold or virus.
- Blocked nose
- Swollen tonsils (adenoids)
- Excessive mucus and saliva produced during teething
- Tobacco smoking
- Drinking while lying back.
- Severe allergies may also cause such issues inside the middle ear.
How Does The Doctor Diagnose Glue Ear?
The doctor may implement the following techniques to diagnose glue ear:
- Air otoscope: A pneumatic otoscope device is a special tool a doctor needs to diagnose ear infections. This tool allows the doctor to look at the ear and determine fluid behind the ear canal. The doctor pushes the air through the ear canal with an air otoscope. Usually, this breath would cause the eardrum to vibrate. If the ear is filled with fluid, your doctor will not notice the movement of the eardrum.
- Tympanometry: It measures the movement of the eardrum. The machine, which closes the ear canal, regulates air pressure in the canal, causing the eardrum to move.
- Acoustic reflectometry: This test measures the amount of noise from the ear canal that helps analyze the fluid level in the ear.
What Are The Treatments For Glue Ear?
Following are the treatment options for glue ear:
- Auto inflation: One way you can alleviate fluid build-up at home is through auto inflation. It involves blowing up a balloon-like device with each nostril.
- Hearing aids and speech therapy: Temporary hearing aids may help improve auditory skills when middle ear fluid is present. It is done to help the child develop because due to disability of hearing, the education and other skills may be affected.
- Surgery: It includes adenoidectomy. The doctor removes the adenoid gland from behind the nose, contributing to fluid build-up in-ear. Adenoid glands are associated with the base of the Eustachian tubes. When the adenoids become irritated and inflamed, the Eustachian tubes can follow suit, leading to fluid build-up and possible ear infections.
- Tympanocentesis: Rarely, a doctor may use a small tube that pierces the eardrum to remove fluid from the middle ear. This process is called tympanocentesis. Then, the doctor sends the fluid for testing for viruses and bacteria. It can be helpful if the infection has not responded well to previous treatment.
What Are The Complications Of Glue Ear?
Untreated or progressive glue ear may have the following complications:
- Impaired hearing: Mild hearing loss may be caused due to an ear infection. However, in case of permanent damage to the eardrum or other parts of the ear, it results in permanent hearing loss.
- Speech or developmental delays: If a hearing is affected in children or infants, it may affect the development and speech of the person.
- Spread of infection: Untreated infections can damage the bone and the formation of pus-filled cysts. As a result, it causes permanent damage to the ear.
- Tearing of the eardrum: Most eardrum tears heal within 72 hours. In some cases, surgical repair is needed. In case of infection, it might not get healed and result in hearing disability.
How To Prevent Glue Ear?
Glue ear is difficult to prevent, especially in young children, but there are a few ways to avoid permanent glue ear so as not to cause allergic reactions and try to stay healthy and improve the immune system through immunomodulatory agents.
Other ways to prevent it are: –
- Do not smoke when children and infants are around
- Breastfeeding (for 3 to 6 months)
- Feed the babies upright while breastfeeding
- Avoid triggers
- Treating ear pain or infection immediately
- Teach toddlers how to blow their noses
- Keeping the home warm and dry
- Ensuring that children have their ears tested before staring at school