Glue ear, also known as otitis media with effusion (OME), is most common in young children, where it often occurs after otitis media (middle ear infection), but it can also affect adults.
Fluid can build up in the middle ear and fails to drain back down the Eustachian tube, the narrow tube that runs from the middle ear to the back of the throa. This can cause temporary hearing loss in one or both ears. If this persists in a young child, it may lead to noticeable deafness, changes in behaviour and a delay in speech development.
How is glue ear treated?
In most cases, glue ear clears up naturally within three months. If it doesn’t get better, an ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon may recommend an operation where a tiny ventilation tube called a grommet is inserted temporarily into the eardrum. This allows air into the middle ear and allows the fluid to drain back down the Eustachian tube.
Hearing aids may be recommended if surgery isn’t suitable because of other health problems, or if there is another reason to avoid inserting grommets – for example, if grommets haven’t worked in the past and glue ear keeps coming back.
To find out more, see our factsheet on glue ear.