Otitis media is a middle ear infection. When otitis media is accompanied by effusion, it is called glue ear. This condition is one in which the negative pressure from the malfunctioning tubes in the ear cause fluid to collect in the middle ear. Over time, the fluid becomes thick and makes it difficult to hear. Like all types of ear infections, glue ear mainly affects babies and children but it can also be seen in adults. Nearly all cases of glue ear resolve themselves, but some cases require antibiotics and surgery.
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Recognise the symptoms of glue ear, including difficulty hearing. You may suddenly notice that your hearing is muffled. Your ear may also seem full or heavy. If you have a young child, he may suddenly not respond when you call him. He might sit closer to the TV or turn up the volume louder than before.
See your doctor about your glue ear symptoms. He will examine your ears for signs, which include air bubbles, fluid behind the eardrum or problems with eardrum movement. If your doctor suspects glue ear, he will investigate further using a tympanometer to generate sound into the ear canal and measure how much sound comes back.
Observe your glue ear symptoms for two to three weeks. According to the U.S. Library of Medicine, nearly all cases of glue ear resolve themselves without further treatment. Your doctor will schedule a checkup within a few weeks to monitor your symptoms.
Evaluate any environmental factors that may affect the health of your middle ear. Allergies often cause ear problems, so avoid allergy triggers such as dust or pollen. If you have a weakened immune system, take measures to boost it. Keep small children with glue ear away from cigarette smoke, as the U.S. Library of Medicine says that it can aggravate ear infections and other conditions.
Tips and warnings
- If the fluid is still present in your ears after six weeks or if your hearing worsens, your doctor may prescribe a single trial of antibiotics to help your middle ear heal. He will then observe your condition further. Your doctor may also test your hearing frequently. Glue ear can cause hearing loss if it lasts longer than a few months.
- If the fluid is still present after a few months, your doctor may suggest surgery to cure the problem. Ear tubes will be inserted into your eardrum to prevent fluid from building up in the middle ear. You must be perfectly still to avoid damage to your hearing, so the procedure may require general anaesthesia. The ear tubes will remain in the eardrum between two and five years before they spontaneously fall out.
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