How to manage glue ear in children
Glue ear, also known as otitis media or middle ear infections, is a condition that affects a number of children. Left untreated, hearing may be an issue, which can also affect development and performance at school.
Middle ear infections can cause ear-aches, fever and mild to severe hearing loss. If your child spends months without the ability to hear properly, picking up on speech and sound around them is harder. This impacts their learning, speech and language development, as well as their overall experience at school.
Causes and signs of middle ear infection
Middle ear infections most commonly occur during a cold or flu, where the eardrum becomes inflamed from bacteria or a virus. Most infections go away on their own but more severe cases should be treated by a doctor.
You may not notice hearing loss right away, especially if the child is very young. The biggest signs are delayed language development or being easily distracted in the classroom and home. If your child appears unable to understand things that their friends can, this may also be a symptom.
If you or your child’s teacher suspects that your child might have hearing difficulties, here are steps to take to manage their condition.
The most important step is to get treatment. Your GP can prescribe medication if needed and you may also talk to an audiologist who can determine the severity of the hearing loss. Then they can also give you advice personalised for your child's condition.
At home solutions
While hearing aids are an option, in some cases your audiologist may suggest minor changes you can do first. These can include talking to you child in a clear tone, having direct eye-contact, and slowly sounding out words when speaking.
Depending on the level of hearing loss, there are a number of ways to help your child at school. Your audiologist may recommend a device that sends sound directly from a microphone worn by the teacher to headphones, hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Called soundfield amplification, it's used for a number of conditions but is particularly helpful if your child has the mild fluctuating hearing loss that often occurs with middle ear infections. It's not as useful if the condition is severe.
Other tips for the classroom include:
Sitting close to the teacher and away from noise
Making sure they can see other children speaking during group activities
Sitting with a buddy
Letting the teacher know when they don’t understand
Facing students when talking and avoiding too much movement
Using visual aids when communicating ideas
Minimising classroom noise
Encouraging your child to read ahead so they can pick up on new words and ideas more easily