|Glue in my ear
Infect of the middle ear can lead to a
condition commonly called 'glue ear'.
MY three-year-old has been having problems understanding me recently.
I would call her and she would not respond. I would tell her to do some-
thing, and she would just go on playing with her toys. At first I thought
she was just being rude and disobedient, and I felt like disciplining her.
But my mother-in-law suggested taking her to a doctor. The doctor did an ear examination and diagnosed
'glue ear'. What is glue ear?
Glue ear is a disorder where fluid builds up in
the middle ear and causes impaired hearing.
It is also known as secretory otitis media (otitis = ear; media= middle), otitis media with
effusion, or serous otitis media. It is a very
common cause of deafness in children.
People of any age can develop glue ear, but
it is commonest in children under age eight
(especially age two), probably because the
passages in the ear grow as a child ages,
becoming less easy to block.
Children who are more susceptible to glue
ear are usually boys, have been exposed to
tobacco smoke, were bottle-fed as a baby, has
a brother or sister who had glue ear, go to a
day care centre, or have repeated colds and flu.
My poor baby! I'm glad I didn't scold her or
disciplined her. Where is the middle ear? Is
it reachable when one pokes a finger in?
The ear is divided into three parts: the outer
ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The
outer ear is divided from the middle ear by
When you reach a finger in, it usually is stopped within the outer ear by
the contours of the ear canal. The middle ear is the part of the ear behind
the eardrum. If you pierce your eardrum with a sharp object, your middle ear can be injured.
In the middle ear, there are three tiny
bones that transmit and enhance sound
vibrations from the eardrum to the inner ear.
They are called the malleus, incus and stapes.
There is also a drainage tube called the
Eustachian tube running from the middle ear
to the nasopharynx, which is the area very
high up in the back of your throat.
If the throat opening of the Eustachian tube
gets blocked by a cold or any other disorder
in that area, you will feel a "funny" pressure
in your ear. That's why you can frequently
swallow to "open up" this tube and equalise
the pressure in your middle ear.
For a child, if there is frequent swelling
from too many colds, mucous will gather in
the middle ear and become thick and sticky.
These three tiny bones in the middle ear will
become very gummy and cannot move freely.
Sounds coming in will then sound muffled.
Why is it called 'glue ear'? Is there glue in
it? Is it caused by an infection?
No, there is no 'glue' per se in the middle ear
for someone afflicted with it. There is actually
an effusion that does not contain pus. It may
either be full of mucous (hence, sticky) or
The term otitis media itself is a very generic
term, meaning inflammation of the middle
ear. It can be divided into:
1. Acute otitis media (AOM) - caused by a
viral or bacterial infection in the middle ear
2. Recurrent acute otitis media (RAOM)
3. Glue ear (OME -- otitis media with effusion)
4. Chronic otitis media with effusion
Glue ear (the effusion part) can occur when
the infection that causes acute otitis media
resolves. As many as 45% of the children who
develop AOM have a persistent effusion after
one month. And multiple studies have
revealed that the same pathogenic bacteria
are present in glue ear as in AOM, and that
there is a persistent inflammation in the
middle ear mucosa that won't go away
because the bacteria is still there.
How do I know if my child has developed
Children with glue ear predominantly develop hearing loss. Your child can get anything
from a slightly muffled hearing in one ear to
full deafness if both ears are affected.
You have to be extra careful with very
young children and babies because they may
not be aware there is anything wrong with
their hearing. So you have to look out for
• If your child's teacher says she has problems with talking, learning languages or
speaking with her friends or adults. You may also note this on your own.
• If your child is having balance problems
or appears clumsy - the middle ear is also the organ for maintaining
• If your child appears to have "selective hearing. There are cases of poor children
being disciplined and caned for perceived disobedience or not answering when
their parents or teacher call them, only to
find out that they have "glue ear".
• If your child has to turn
up the TV or radio volume very loud, or if he keeps saying, "What?"
In the case of babies, if they are being less
responsive to sounds, an ear check is warranted.
Sometimes the child can also complain of
slight earache. Children who have repeated
colds and flu are more likely to develop