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Glue Ear or Otitis Media With Effusion (OME): Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

What is Glue Ear?

Almost all children suffer from an ear infection or a cold in their young life. In some children, there is some fluid which gets trapped inside their ear. This condition is commonly known as glue ear. Medically it is known as otitis media with effusion or OME. This condition affects hearing in the children. Glue ear occurs after middle ear infection, but it is difficult to discern it, as the fluid is trapped inside the ear and is not visible from outside and there are no other obvious symptoms such as fever or pain. Glue ear or Otitis Media with Effusion commonly affects young children between the ages of 1 and 4 years. Older children and adults may also suffer from it. Usually, Glue Ear or Otitis Media with Effusion doesn’t require any treatment and clears on its own within a few months.

What is Glue Ear?

Causes of Glue Ear or Otitis Media With Effusion (OME)

Glue Ear or Otitis Media with Effusion is a result of middle ear infection and fluid accumulation. Middle ear is located behind the ear drum. Due to the fluid buildup in the middle ear, the ossicles, which are three tiny ear bones, are not able to vibrate well, and this results in improper transmission of sounds from the outer ear to the inner ear causing loss of hearing or impaired hearing in the child. Glue Ear or Otitis Media with Effusion commonly affects young children between the ages of 1 and 4 years. Older children and adults may also suffer from it. Glue Ear or Otitis Media with Effusion can affect one ear or both the ears. It frequently occurs in the winter season. The fluid buildup in the ear causes the Eustachian tube to become blocked due to which it is not able to drain the fluid and mucus away. The following causes prevent fluid drainage from the ear:

  • Pressure changes in the ear such as occurring in flights and at high altitudes.
  • Ear infections.
  • Irritants such as chemicals and cigarette smoke.
  • Regurgitation of gastric fluids from the stomach, through the throat and into the Eustachian tube.

Symptoms of Glue Ear or Otitis Media With Effusion (OME)

  • Loss of hearing. This can be very mild to moderate.
  • Ear ache.
  • Balance problems and clumsiness.
  • Irritability and behavioral problems.
  • Trouble sleeping.

Treatment of Glue Ear or Otitis Media With Effusion (OME)

  • Glue Ear or Otitis Media with Effusion doesn’t require any treatment and clears on its own within a few months.
  • Presently, there are no medications specifically for treating Glue Ear or Otitis Media with Effusion.
  • Surgery is the only treatment done, but very rarely. It is only required if both the ears are affected and there is significant hearing loss.
  • Surgery is also required in those cases where the child’s growth is affected by the pre-existing medical conditions such as autism, cleft palate, Down’s syndrome, blindness and other language and speech problems.
  • Surgery for Glue Ear or Otitis Media with Effusion comprises of insertion of grommets in order to keep the Eustachian tube clear.
  • Other surgical procedures comprise of removal of the adenoids, as inflammation of adenoids can also cause blockage of Eustachian tube.
  • An alternative to surgery for Glue Ear or Otitis Media with Effusion is hearing aids.

References:

  1. Mayo Clinic – Glue Ear (Otitis Media with Effusion): https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/glue-ear/symptoms-causes/syc-20351567
  2. WebMD – Understanding Glue Ear: https://www.webmd.com/children/understanding-glue-ear-basics
  3. NHS – Glue Ear: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/glue-ear/
  4. American Academy of Otolaryngology – Glue Ear in Children: https://www.enthealth.org/conditions/glue-ear-in-children/
  5. HealthyChildren.org – Otitis Media with Effusion (OME): https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/ear-nose-throat/pages/Otitis-Media-with-Effusion.aspx

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 5, 2023

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