Learn about the causes of Glue Ear & find a practitioner in Auckland, Hamilton, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin to help you overcome Glue Ear within New Zealand.
Glue ear, or otitis media, is an inflammation of the ear drum which is usually associated with a build up of fluid in the middle ear space behind the ear drum.
Causes of glue ear
Glue ear is the most common cause of hearing problems in children and occurs when fluid builds up in the middle ear. The middle ear is located behind the eardrum and has three tiny bones that carry sound to the inner ear. It is connected to the back of the nose by the Eustachian tube which remains closed unless yawning or swallowing. Fluid which builds up in the middle ear is drained by the Eustachian tube.
Glue ear occurs when this tube becomes blocked but why this happens are still unclear. Many experts believe viral and bacterial infections are the cause although this hasn't been proved. Studies have shown that the risk of glue ear in children increases if:
Cases of glue ear increase after a cold or flu and some evidence points to allergies as a potential cause of the condition.
Symptoms of glue ear
Impaired hearing is the main symptom of glue ear and is usually very mild. In some cases, hearing loss is more severe and can result in complete deafness. The level at which hearing is impaired will depend on whether one or both ears have been affected and how thick the fluid in the ear is.
Glue ear in babies and toddlers is often difficult to detect and parents may not be aware anything is wrong. Glue ear can contribute to other difficulties which may help with identifying the condition.
If earache is accompanied by a fever and pain then an infection may have developed and you seek medical attention.
Diagnosis of glue ear
A routine hearing test at the GP will often be sufficient to diagnose glue ear. The GP will first check for any blockages or excessive ear wax which may be the problem. The doctor will then examine the eardrum using an otoscope in the ear canal. If the Eustachian tube is blocked, a vacuum develops causing the eardrum to be sucked in.
Other signs of glue ear include a lack of vibration of the eardrum, visible fluid or bubbles and a yellowing of the eardrum. If glue ear is diagnosed, your GP will refer your child to a hearing specialist to confirm diagnosis and test for hearing loss.
A hearing specialist (known as an audiologist) will use some simple tests. These are usually an audiogram, a tympanometry test or a McCormick toy test.
Audiogram – An audiometer emits different sound frequencies at varying levels which your child will have to acknowledge when they hear a sound.
Tympanometry – In this test, a device is placed into the ear causing a change to air pressure which results in movement to the eardrum. The results are then recorded on a tympanogram.
McCormick toy test - Typically used on younger children, this test involves a healthcare professional whispering the name of an object (usually a toy, hence the name) in the child's ear which the child has to point to as a way of indicating they can hear the word being spoken.