Ailments affecting your child’s ears can be frightening as we can’t really see what’s going on in there. But there are key glue ear symptoms to look out for and there are treatment options out there to get your little one fighting fit again.

Parents get used to dealing with a range of ailments, but problems with a child’s hearing can be one of the most distressing conditions to deal with, as it can cause everything from pain and trouble sleeping, to a delay in learning development and social engagement.

One of the main causes of hearing loss in children is glue ear - a common condition that’s caused when a sticky, glue-like fluid fills the middle ear and causes the child to develop hearing difficulties.

Ear infection child glue ear

Approximately 80 per cent of children in the UK suffer with glue ear, with the majority of those under the age of ten.

It can be particularly problematic after a cough, cold, or ear infection when extra mucus builds up so it’s best to be symptom-aware as we head into cough and cold season.

Paediatrician Dr Ranj Singh has put together his top tips on spotting glue ear in a child, as well as handy advice on how to treat it.

Dr Ranj Singh’s symptom checker

1. Selective or loss of hearing

‘One of the most obvious ways to assess whether your child is suffering from glue ear is to look out for signs of hearing loss. For example, they may stop responding to instructions or struggle with conversation in a busy room unless you are face-to-face.

In fact some people mistake hearing loss for disobedience, when in fact the child isn’t ignoring instructions – they just can’t hear them.

You may also notice that they turn up the volume on the TV or that they become less responsive to everyday sounds such as the phone ringing or music on a radio.

2. Changes in behaviour

‘Another sign to look out for is any big changes in behaviour. Hearing loss can cause children to become angry and frustrated if they can’t keep up with conversations or understand what’s going on and they may even begin to isolate themselves from others or seem easily distracted and ‘zone out’.

Keep an eye out at school and in the playground to see whether they may be struggling to hear over background noise.

3. Trouble communicating

‘General problems communicating or a delay in the development of your child’s communication skills may also be a sign of glue ear. Excluding hearing problems is important in any child with speech and language issues. 

Look out for changes in your child’s voice and language, especially if they are falling behind their peers at school or having difficulty in social situations.

[Related story: 7 simple ways to support your child’s mental health]

4. Tiredness

‘It can be exhausting trying to strain to hear people all the time, so it’s no wonder that your child may become tired and more irritable if they are suffering with glue ear.

It’s usually quite normal to be tired after a long say at school or after attending a birthday party, but just be aware of any change in patterns that could be a sign that your son or daughter is having to work extra hard to keep up.

5. Ear pain

‘If left untreated, glue ear can become painful for some children. Not everyone will suffer from this, but if your son or daughter is complaining of frequent earache and has problems sleeping, it could be a sign that they are suffering from glue ear.

However, if the pain is severe or persistent, this could be a sign of an ear infection or something else, so you should always check with a healthcare professional.

Treating glue ear

Dr Ranj

Dr Ranj Singh advises: "A child suffering with glue ear may present any combination of the above symptoms. In the first instance, it’s always sensible to speak to a healthcare professional to get them assessed and referred for further testing if necessary.

"Sometimes your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, particularly if there is suspicion of infection, and if the problem persists grommet surgery may also be advised.

"Unfortunately, despite the potentially significant consequences on development, there has traditionally been little in the way of definitive treatment for glue ear, other than surgery.  However, there is now a real alternative that has clinically-proven results. 

Auto inflation device

"Auto-inflation devices provide a relatively non-invasive and low-cost option for helping to treat glue ear, potentially avoiding surgery & the use of antibiotics. They give parents an easy-to-use and effective treatment option for their children."

Otovent is the only clinically proven, non-surgical and drug free treatment for glue ear and is available on Amazon.

Has your child suffered from glue ear? How did you spot it and what did you do to treat it? Let us know in the Comments box below.