16 January 2007

Glue Ear

We've recently been undergoing hospital appointments for our eldest son due to a long term ear infection. At our last appointment we were told he had "glue ear" so I thought as this is the most common cause of hearing loss in children some information may be useful. Glue ear affects about 4 in 5 children have had glue ear at some point by the time they are four years old and that glue ear remains common among children up to the age of six years old and it causes long-lasting hearing problems in about 1 in 20 five year olds.

What is Glue Ear?
The ear is divided into three parts - the outer, middle, and inner ear. The middle ear behind the eardrum is normally filled with air. The middle ear is connected to the back of the nose by a thin channel, the Eustachian tube. Glue ear is a condition where the middle ear becomes filled with fluid that looks like glue instead of draining away down the Eustacian tube - it can affect one or both ears. The fluid dampens the vibrations of the eardrum and bones (ossicles) made by the sound waves, the cochlea receives dampened vibrations, and so the 'volume' of the hearing is 'turned down'.

What are the Symptoms of Glue Ear?
Dulled hearing is the main symptom of glue ear. The hearing does not go completely and the loss can vary from mild to severe, and can vary from day to day. Pain is not usually a main symptom, but ear ache may occur from time to time as the gluey substance is a good food for bacteria, and ear infections are more common in children with glue ear. Delopment and behaviour may be affected in a small number of children.

Teaching Children with Glue Ear
First off if you are a teacher / teaching assistant you may be the one who spots a child with hearing difficulty. Children with glue ear can experience different levels of hearing loss from day to day even from lesson to lesson, so it is sometimes tricky to notice.

Common signs are:

  • inattention - seeming to hear only what they want to hear
  • talking too loudly
  • being quiet and spending time in a world of their own
  • needing to turn up the volume control on PCs and televisions
  • saying pardon or what? more than usual or needing instructions repeated
  • copying their friends actions
  • reacting less to noises and instructions especially from behind them
  • complaining of ear ache and not feeling well
  • mispronunciation of some sounds or words
  • getting very tired during the day as having to concentrate very hard to hear people uses up a lot of energy
For children identified with hearing impairment the following ideas will help them listen:
  • ensure they have the best seating position (e g. away background noise where possible.)
  • make sure that they can see your face (many children quickly learn to lip read and read facial expressions)
  • attract the childs attention by saying their name before asking a question or giving a instruction
  • be prepared to repeat points
  • when talking to the child speak clearly using a normal voice at normal speed but use gesture / signs to reinforce what you say and keep instructions short
  • if appropriate provide a list of vocabulary, context and visual clues especially for new subjects
  • during class discussion allow one pupil to speak at a time and indicate where the speaker is - allow the child to turn around to see other children when they are talking
  • be aware that difficulty with spelling / phonics can result from hearing loss
Further Information
For more information contact:

Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID)

The National Deaf Children's Society

No comments: