Glue Ear Teachers’ Guide

How does Glue Ear affect teaching?

Children suffering from Glue Ear have impaired hearing, which means that their ability to contribute to class can significantly diminish. Knowing the signs of the condition as a teacher could mean that parents can seek treatment promptly. Once you have established that a student does have Glue Ear there are ways of working around the condition to ensure the child experiences the best possible quality of education even whilst unwell.

What is Glue Ear?

Glue Ear is a common ear condition affecting 80% of children at least once in their childhood. It is often instigated by the common cold and occurs when the middle ear becomes blocked with a sticky ‘glue’ like substance. The tiny bones in the ear which conduct sound are restricted by the blockage meaning hearing is dulled.

Spotting the Signs

Any of the following behaviours may suggest that a child is suffering from Glue Ear:

Difficulty learning new words & a limited vocabulary

Finds reading a challenge

Repeatedly asking "what?" or "pardon?"

Daydreaming & seeming withdrawn

Mispronounces words or misses out sections of words

Speaks loudly

Asks you to repeat yourself

Shows signs of frustration or anxiety

Gives inappropriate responses

Appears lost when answering a question or misunderstanding instructions

Tiredness & end of day grumpiness

Strains to hear & or staring intently at your face

Changeable hearing ability, particularly during winter

Difficulty following instructions, especially when background noise is high

Improving the experience of a child with Glue Ear

If a child has been diagnosed with the condition, there are some strategies you can deploy in the class room to mitigate the effect it has on their education.

Best seats in the house

Moving affected children to the front of the class where they’ll have the best chance of hearing you and the least obstructive view is a good idea. Whilst it doesn’t entirely fix the situation, it does mean that you can easily monitor the child.

Keep your mouth visible

When we can’t hear properly we’re highly adept at trying to compensate with other senses. Children with Glue Ear will often attempt to lip read. If your face is obstructed that option is ruled out for them. Try not to turn away to the board whilst talking.

Lighting is key

Make sure your face is well lit throughout the lesson, this includes trying not to stand in windows where you’ll be seen in shadow by the child.

Always bear line of sight in mind

Whilst the traditional idea of a teacher sees you stood in front of a sat down class, this isn’t always the case. If you’re sat in the round in a seating position with the class make sure you’re at eye level with Glue Ear sufferers.

Wait until they’re watching

Where possible, don’t start talking until the student is intently watching you and if you’re changing topic try to ensure they’re aware.

Call their name

If you’re speaking directly to the child, call their name first so that its clear you’re talking to them.

Slow & steady wins the race

Shouting can come across as aggressive or frightening to both the Glue Ear sufferer and their fellow pupils. Try to retain a steady pace with your speech and be clear.

Avoid too much movement

Children with hearing impairment struggle to keep track of people talking whilst moving.

Check in on them

Children often feel pressured to say they have understood even if they haven’t. Check in with them whenever you can and make it clear that they are not in trouble if they need to ask for clarity.


The student may struggle to hear what other pupils have said, so try to summarise at regular intervals.

Outside of class

If a child is struggling to hear in class other school activities such as PE, assembly or field trips will also present a challenge. If these activities are looked after by a different member of staff make sure they share your awareness of the condition and that you operate a joined up approach across the student’s school life. Bear in mind that sound travels easier in a confined space, so any outdoor activities will be the most difficult for the child.

Improve acoustics

Where possible you should try to improve the acoustics of the classroom. Cork or fabric notice boards can help with this as well as ensuring the background noise from other pupils remains as low as possible.

Hearing equipment

Some classrooms are fitted with soundfield amplification systems. Children can also be provided with personal listening devices whilst you wear a microphone.

Treating Glue Ear

If you suspect a child is suffering with the condition, you should advise their parent to consult their GP. The GP may diagnose Glue Ear themselves or refer the family to an Audiologist. In many cases the condition will clear up by itself, but sometimes intervention is required. Traditionally this has usually meant insertion of a ventilation tube in the eardrum, which is known as Grommet surgery. However, this has been selected by the NHS as one of the surgeries it is trying to cut down on as a money saving exercise.

This is where Otovent comes in. The Otovent Autoinflation Device consists of a nose piece and a specially pressurised balloon which the child inflates via their nose. This act opens the eustachian tube allowing the sticky fluid associated with Glue Ear to safely drain away. Otovent is the only drug-free and non-surgical clinically proven treatment for Glue Ear. It is available over the counter in pharmacy and from the Otovent website.

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