Does your young child seem to have muffled hearing problems, for instance they don’t respond when you call because they didn’t hear you? Then they may have otitis media with effusion, aka glue ear.
Otitis media with effusion means thick sticky fluid is trapped in their middle ear space. This ear problem can happen at any age, but is more common in toddlers. And this muffled hearing problem will typically subside on its own.
Otitis media with effusion is not an ear infection, although it can happen just after one. Or glue ear may cause an infection if bacteria is ensnared as well.
The root causes of middle ear fluid build up is a blocked or swollen Eustachian tube. This tube drains ear fluid into the back of your throat, which is then swallowed. Some of the associative causes for muffled hearing problems from middle ear fluid are:
- enlarged adenoids
- respiratory infections
- bacteria, virus pathogens
- drinking while lying down
- irritants ~ cigarette smoke, dust, air pollution
- sudden increase in air pressure ~ flying, mountain roads
When a child only has otitis media with effusion and no infection, then symptoms usually involve muffled hearing problems and a sense of ear fullness. Some do experience pain and tugging at an ear may be your only sign.
Generally, treatment is to let the middle ear fluid subside on its own. Children’s OTC pain reliever can help with any earache discomfort. Also, a warm, moist compress over the muffled ear might offer some relief. Antibiotics or ear tubes may be necessary should the hearing problems continue because the middle ear fluid fails to clear within a few months.
Otitis media with effusion is not considered a serious health condition and long term hearing loss problems are very rare.