What is Glue Ear? 

Glue ear is the term used to describe the middle ear filling with mucus and fluid. Between 15-20% of children between 2 -5 years are likely to have glue ear at some time. It can fluctuate and may affect the child differently at different times.

Why might it be a problem?

The mucus stops the sound travelling through the ear and can cause temporary deafness.  If a child is unable to hear speech sounds and words clearly, he will be unable to copy them which may delay speech and language development.

You can find out how to help your child if they have a mild hearing loss by reading this help sheet: Mild Hearing Loss

What can cause glue ear?

  • Family history
  • Bacteria from colds, flu, sore throats
  • Passive smoking
  • Cold weather
  • Allergies to pets/pollen/dust
  • Using a dummy

How can I prevent or reduce the risk of Glue Ear occurring?

  • Breastfeed your baby 
  • Give your child a balanced diet 
  • Create a non-smoking environment
  • Reduce dummy use – for more information see the following leaflet: dummies


How can I spot a child with Glue Ear?

If it is acute (sudden onset) a child will experience the following:

  • Severe earache
  • High temperature
  • Discharge of puss/blood
  • Very unwell - possible sickness and diarrhoea
  • Frequent pulling at their ears

Behaviours that frequently accompany Glue Ear

  • Tiredness
  • Pain (earache) with or without discharge
  • Withdrawal
  • Distractible
  • Protest
  • Clingy
  • Wake at night
  • Frequent colds
  • Breathing through their mouth
  • Hearing  difficulties
  • Frustration
  • Socially inept

What can I do if I suspect glue ear?

  • Keep a log of when your child is responsive or when they are having a ‘bad day’
  • Visit the G.P. and ask to be sent for a hearing test.

If you know a child has Glue Ear

  • Be patient
  • Reinforce everything visually
  • Always get their attention by using their name and only give the instruction once they have made eye contact with you
  • Give instructions as close to them as possible
  • Reduce background noise as much as possible
  • Facilitate their social relationships
  • Keep speech clear at all times
  • Position them at the front during circle time
  • Be ready to repeat things