Glue Ear & Grommets
Glue ear occurs when the area behind the ear drum (middle ear) fills up with fluid. This condition can effect both adults and children but is most commonly seen in infants before the Eustachian tube has grown enough to function properly. It is believed that up to 8 in every 10 children will have a short episode of glue ear before they reach school age. This is especially common after colds or ear infections.
The most common symptom of glue ear is temporary hearing loss in one or both ears. Other symptoms may include earache, pain or tinnitus (a ringing or buzzing sound in the ears). This can be diagnosed by using a scope with a magnifying glass and light to look for fluid inside the ear. The condition often resolves by itself and a period of ‘watchful waiting’ of approximately 3 months is usually recommended. During this time exercises such as blowing bubbles through straws and blowing up balloons may help the Eustachian tube to open.
After three months your child should be reassessed and their hearing checked. If the glue ear symptoms persist and are affecting the child’s learning and development then grommets may be recommended. Other alternatives include a hearing aid or a further period of ‘watchful waiting’. The merits of each of these will be discussed with you during your consultation.
A grommet is a small plastic bobbin that sits in the ear drum to allow air into the middle ear. This therefore prevents the glue ear fluid from re-accumulating. The procedure would be performed under general anaesthetic in children, but can be performed under local anaesthetic in adults. Grommets should fall out naturally within 6 to 18 months following surgery as the ear gets better. Hearing will be assessed after the procedure to ensure that it has recovered as expected.