Glue Ear

How Is Glue Ear Diagnosed?

Because there often are no clear symptoms to suggest that your child has glue ear, your doctor may rely on one or several of these tests to make the diagnosis:


Otoscopy involves looking at the eardrum using an instrument (called an otoscope) with a cone-shaped tip and a small light attached. The otoscope has a rubber bulb attached to see movement of the eardrum.The doctor may see signs of trapped fluid and poor movement of the eardrum. The eardrum will look clear and have no signs of redness, but will not move in response to the air, as a normal eardrum would.


Audiometry measures hearing across a range of frequencies. How this test is done depends on the age of the child. It usually involves having a child wear headphones and respond to a variety of sounds. There are now newer techniques for performing audiometry for very young children. However, some children with middle-ear fluid can have normal hearing.


A tympanometry test is used to determine whether there is a problem with the middle ear. This test will evaluate the eardrum (tympanic membrane) by observing its motion in response to waves of pressure, and measuring the air pressure of the middle ear.

  • A probe that your doctor will insert into the ear will emit a pure tone with a certain amount of sound energy. The probe measures how much sound energy bounces back off the eardrum, rather than being transmitted to the middle ear.
  • The more energy returned to the probe, the stiffer and more blocked the middle ear is.
  • Your child may feel some mild discomfort while the probe is in the ear, but the test is not risky.

An abnormal tympanometry test may indicate any of the following:

  • Fluid in the middle ear
  • A perforated ear drum or typanostomy tube
  • Impacted ear wax
  • Scarring of the eardrum
  • A cyst growing in the middle ear
  • Lack of contact between the bones of the middle ear that conduct sound

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