- Introduction* Glue Ear is a build up of thick gluey secretions in the middle ear. It is the most common cause of hearing loss in young children. It may also be known as Secretory Otitis or Otitis media with effusion (OME).
- About* Glue Ear often develops following a bacterial or viral middle ear infection (otitis media). The Eustachian tube leads from the back of the nasal sinuses to the middle ear. It allows air to pass through to equalise the pressure across the eardrum. A child's Eustachian tube is smaller, narrower and more horizontal than an adult's, making them susceptible to infections. If the tube becomes blocked, a negative pressure develops in the middle ear, causing fluid to leak in from surrounding capillaries. The gluey fluid itself is usually not infected. Children with problems of the Eustachian tube are likely to suffer from Glue Ear. Such problems include repeated infections, exposure to cigarette smoke, trauma, or birth defects such as cleft palate.
Glue Ear occurs in up to 20% of children before the age of 3 years. It can affect one or both ears. It may go unnoticed as it is not painful, with the only symptom a feeling of blocked ears or difficulty hearing. Bouts of Glue Ear may last for several weeks or months. If untreated, Glue Ear may affect a child's hearing and cause delays in speech and language development.
- Health care* Prevention of ear infections and reducing irritation to the Eustachian tube may help prevent Glue Ear. - Use careful handwashing to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses. - Immunisation is recommended for children, against influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia. - Maintain a smoke-free environment in the home and around children. - Nurse babies upright for bottle-feeds, to prevent inhaling milk into sinuses. - Children should have regular hearing tests by an Audiologist. - Exclusive breastfeeding to at least 4 months of age is protective.
- Diet tips* A nutritious, balanced diet is all that is required for Glue Ear. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, complex carbohydrates and protein. Avoid refined and processed foods, simple sugars and saturated fats.
- Vits/mins/herbs* Vitamins may only be of assistance if dietary intake is inadequate. Always check with your Health Professional before giving remedies to children, as some supplements are not suitable for children. - Echinacea and Golden Seal are herbs which have been shown to enhance the immune system of the body. - Thyme is a herb with proven anti-bacterial properties. Thyme may be helpful if recurrent infections are causing Glue Ear. - Golden rod is a herb that helps to reduce the production of excess mucus in the upper airways. Golden rod also has anti-inflammatory properties. - Propolis is a natural bee product which has anti-bacterial properties. Propolis can be taken as drops, capsules or lozenges.