What you need to know

  • Glue ear is usually painless, so the main symptom you may notice in your child is hearing issues.
  • There are no medications to treat glue ear – usually it will improve on its own.
  • If you think your child may have glue ear, or you are worried about their hearing or language development, see your family doctor.

Symptoms

Glue ear is usually painless, so the main symptom you may notice in your child is hearing issues. Glue ear can develop after an ear infection, in one or both ears and your child’s hearing maybe reduced.  

Small children may not be able to tell you they can't hear but will show signs in their behaviour. Your child may: 

  • ask you to repeat things 
  • seem to ignore you, or not answer when you speak to them 
  • mishear things 
  • talk loudly 
  • want the television up louder 
  • not develop their language as well as they should be 
  • be irritable because of disrupted sleep 
  • have trouble with their balance. 

When to visit a doctor

If you think your child may have glue ear, or you are worried about their hearing or language development, see your family doctor. They will check for hearing loss and may refer you to a person who will support you and your whānau with your child’s speech and language development. 

If your child’s hearing and speech are okay, your doctor may just ask you to make regular appointments to check your little one’s ears. 

Treatment 

There are no medications to treat glue ear – usually it will improve on its own. It can take weeks or months to clear up.  

In some cases, glue ear will have to be treated with the insertion of ventilation tubes, called grommetsIf your child does need grommets, your doctor may refer them to see an ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist. Your child may also need support with speech and language, if they've been affected by hearing loss.  

Communicating with your child  

The biggest challenge for your child with glue ear is hearing. Below are a few tips to help make sure you continue to communicate well with your child:

  • get your child’s attention before you speak to them 
  • minimise background noise, if possible 
  • make sure your child can see your face when you are speaking 
  • look at your child when you speak, and speak slowly, clearly and slightly louder than normal 
  • know that having hearing problems may cause changes in your child’s behaviour 
  • if your child goes to day care or preschool, let their teacher know about the glue ear and hearing problems - they can help by seating your child at the front of the class.
Need free support or advice?

Call PlunketLine 24/7 on 0800 933 922