Glue Ear In Children

Glue Ear (otherwise known as Otitis Media with Effusion or Serous Otitis Media) is a common medical condition which affects hearing. This can result in stunted learning at school and social difficulties.


The ear is comprised of three parts: the outer ear canal, the middle ear space (where infections occur) and the inner ear where the nerves and balance are located. The upper throat and back of the nasal cavity or Nasopharynx is connected to the middle ear via a canal called the Eustachian tube.

If the Eustachian tube becomes blocked – usually due to a common cold – the middle ear will fill with fluid rather than air. After a while this fluid can become thick and glue like. Your child will not be able to hear properly if they have glue ear. The condition affects 8 out of 10 children at least once before their tenth birthday.


Glue Ear is a painless condition which causes hearing loss. If you have noticed your child displaying any of the following symptoms they could be suffering with glue ear:

Dulled Hearing

The sticky glue-like fluid associated with the condition dampens the vibrations made by soundwaves causing a reduction in hearing ability

Social Isolation

Hearing loss reduces a child’s awareness of their environment and can leave them feeling left out

Speech & Language Problems

In some cases, glue ear can cause stunted speech and language development

Selective Hearing

Children with glue ear can appear to have selective hearing, for example not responding when their name is called

Learning Challenges

Difficulty hearing the teacher can lead to a child’s school work deteriorating

Clumsiness or Balance Problems

Ear conditions can cause balance problems

Using a Louder Volume

If your child is turning the volume up louder than usual on household devices, this could be a sign of glue ear

Babies less responsive to sound

Children yet to develop speech who suffer from glue ear are less responsive to sound



You should consult your GP if you notice your child’s behaviour matching the glue ear symptoms. If your GP suspects glue ear as the cause they will likely ask you to observe a “watch and wait” or “active observation” period. This happens because up to 50% of glue ear cases will spontaneously resolve without treatment.


50% of glue ear cases will spontaneously resolve without treatment


If your child’s symptoms persist your GP will refer you to an Audiologist. Using a tympanometry test the Audiologist will diagnose glue ear. At the point of diagnosis, you will likely be asked to continue the active observation period. If the condition persists after this, they will either recommend you use Otovent or refer you to an ENT surgeon for grommet surgery. Otovent is available for your GP or Prescribing Audiologist to prescribe.

Watch and Wait / Active Observation

Many parents find the wait for a diagnosis very frustrating. The desire for treatment is of course made especially urgent if your child’s school work and social life are suffering. The Otovent auto inflation device is available on prescription free of charge and over the counter at your local pharmacy. You can also purchase it online. Otovent is the only clinically effective drug-free treatment for Glue Ear. Moniri Otovent – a glue ear treatment for under 3’s – is now available for purchase.

What is Otovent?

Drug-free and non-surgical, Otovent is an autoinflation device. The balloons included in the kit are specially pressurised to open the eustachian tube when inflated via the nose. This process allows the fluid associated with glue ear to safely drain away. NICE recommend that auto-inflation is tried during the watch and wait / active observation period “for children who are likely to be able to carry out the procedure”.

The Otovent autoinflation device is only suitable for children who can blow their nose.

Grommet Surgery

Grommet surgery is a fifteen-minute operation carried out under general anaesthetic. A small plastic tube is inserted into the ear drum to drain fluid and maintain the correct pressure. Grommets will typically stay in for 6 – 12 months but in around 1/3 of cases can fall out before the glue ear is resolved. Repeat surgery can result in a scarred ear drum.
Alternative medicine

Other Remedies

NICE and the NHS do not recommend the following alternative treatments due to a lack of supporting clinical evidence: antibiotics, topical or systemic antihistamines, topical or systemic decongestants, topical or systemic steroids, homeopathy, cranial osteopathy, acupuncture, dietary modification, including probiotics, immunostimulants and massage.

How To Use Otovent

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