Glue ear: Causes, symptoms and treatment

Glue ear is a condition that occurs when the middle part of ear fills with fluid. This part of the ear is located behind the eardrum. The fluid can become thick and sticky, like glue. Overtime, glue ear is likely to lead to a middle ear infection. It can also impair the hearing.

Causes of Glue ear

Glue ear happens when thick fluid builds up inside your middle ear. Severe allergies may also cause such issues inside the middle ear. In such cases, the eustachian tubes can become swollen and constricted, leading to fluid buildup. Glue ear tends to be more common in children. This is because the eustachian tubes deep inside the ear are narrower than an adult’s and more prone to becoming clogged.

Symptoms of Glue Ear

Symptoms include:

  • Hearing difficulty
  • Feeling of pressure deep in ear
  • Tiredness from overall discomfort.
  • Sometimes cause pain, too.

Cases that persists longer than a few months can cause permanent hearing damage. Young children with chronic glue ear are also at a higher risk of delayed speech and language.

Glue Ear treatment

Most cases go away on their own. However, when it leads to middle ear infection may be treated with antibiotics.


One way you can alleviate fluid buildup at home is through autoinflation. This involves blowing up a balloon like device with each nostril. For best results, autoinflation is done several times a day. This method isn’t recommended for children under age 3.

Hearing aids and speech therapy

Temporary hearing aids may be used to help improve auditory skills when middle ear fluid is present. If lack of hearing has impacted your child’s developmental milestones, then your doctor might also recommend speech therapy.


Chronic cases are sometimes treated with a type of surgery called an adenoidectomy. During this procedure, your doctor removes your adenoid glands from behind your nose that may be contributing to fluid buildup in your ear.

During and after surgery, you’ll need to wear small tubes in your ears called grommets, commonly referred to as ear tubes or pressure equalizer tubes. These keep your eardrum open by allowing fluid to drain away from behind it. Grommets are only temporary though, and they usually fall out on their own within a year.

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