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What is the treatment for glue ear?

Answered by Dr Ellie Cannon
8th September 2015
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Many doctors will not consider any treatment for glue ear, unless it persists for a long time. This is because around half of all cases will get better without medical treatment within 3 months, and around 95% of all cases will get better on their own within a year.

During the first few months, most doctors will observe your child’s progress. This is often known as ‘watchful waiting’ and your child will be checked regularly to see if the glue ear is clearing up.

If the glue ear doesn’t go away, or your child has repeated bouts of glue ear and hearing loss in both ears, doctors will then consider a range of other treatment options. Your doctor may also recommend treatment if the glue ear is affecting your child’s learning and development. The odds of glue ear getting better by itself are lower in children who have Down’s syndrome or a cleft palate, in which case other treatment options will often be considered earlier than usual.

For children with persistent glue ear, there are two main treatment options. The first is called a grommet insertion. A grommet is a very small tube that is inserted through a small cut in the eardrum of your child’s ear during a surgical procedure that is carried out under general anaesthetic, so they will be asleep and feel no pain. A grommet helps to ventilate the middle ear and hearing immediately improves. For persistent glue ear, grommets are generally considered to be the treatment option of choice.

If your child is unable to have surgery, or you do not want your child to have a surgical procedure, then there is the option of fitting a hearing aid. They are small electronic devices that can be worn both in and outside your child’s ear, and they amplify sound to improve your child’s hearing.

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