Glue Ear

Glue Ear: Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions related to glue ear.

Q: How is glue ear different from an ear infection?

A: Glue ear is not painful and does not cause symptoms of a middle-ear infection (such as fever, crying, inability to sleep soundly, tugging at the ear). Instead of pain, the child may experience a feeling of stuffiness in the ears and hearing loss. Glue ear may develop within weeks of an ear infection, but often the cause is unknown.

Q: Are some children more likely than others to get glue ear?

A: Children with genetic conditions such as cleft palate or Down syndrome may have smaller eustachian tubes and may be more susceptible to glue ear. Some researchers believe children are at higher risk if they live in regions where there is cold weather, if they have frequent colds or allergy, or if they are exposed to second-hand smoke.

Q: Are there risks involved in having ear tubes inserted?

A: Placement of ear tubes must be done in the operating room, and this carries the usual risks associated with any general anesthesia. In a small number of cases, ear tubes don’t fall out on their own and must be surgically removed. Also rare are cases in which the ear tube falls out, but the hole in the eardrum left behind does not close up on its own. Surgery may be necessary to patch the hole.

Q: My son just seems to hear when he wants to and often appears to be daydreaming. His teacher says he’s lazy, but I think he’s not hearing properly. Could he have glue ear?

A: Maybe. Because glue ear is not painful, often it is behavior problems that provide the first clue. When children have hearing difficulties, parents usually recognize or suspect something is wrong. Trust your own judgment, and have your child’s ears checked by a physician.

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