This is a common condition in children aged two to six years. In some children it may cause a hearing loss leading to a wide range of problems such as poor speech development, hearing loss, behavioural changes, recurrent ear infections or sensation of imbalance.
In about half of affected children the condition resolves spontaneously in about 3 months. In others specialist attention may be required to test hearing and decide on if anything needs to be done.
Treatment options for glue ear include the insertion of grommets or the use of a hearing aid. A hearing aid if used is used until complete resolution of the condition. A grommet is a tiny tube that is placed sitting astride the eardrum. This is done by an operation under general anaesthesia although can be done with a local anaesthetic in adults. The grommet ventilates the middle ear, keeping the pressure in the middle ear at the same pressure as the atmosphere. Atmospheric pressure in the middle ear is required for proper hearing function. Recovery after surgery is usually quick with most (if not all) patients leaving hospital on the same day of surgery. The use of a grommet is a temporary measure to improve hearing until the condition resolves spontaneously. Some children may need to have grommets inserted more than once as grommets come out spontaneously after being in place for six to eighteen months.