Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Glue ear is common in young children.

Glue ear is common in young children.
beginning of content

Glue ear

Glue ear occurs when the liquid inside your ear becomes thick like glue. Glue ear often follows repeated ear infections, and can affect hearing and lead to other problems. If you think you or your child might have glue ear, see your doctor.

What is glue ear?

Glue ear is an ear condition in which the liquid inside your middle ear gets trapped and becomes thick like glue. The medical term for glue ear is otitis media with effusion.

Glue ear is common in young children. It can last for weeks or months, and can affect hearing, speech, learning and behaviour.

What causes glue ear?

Glue ear is caused by blockage of a small tube in the ear, called the Eustachian tube. When fluid is trapped inside this tube, it slowly gets thicker. This often happens after a head cold.

Glue ear can happen after repeated middle ear infections. Children living with smokers are more likely to get glue ear than those who don’t. Using a dummy for long periods can make things worse.

Glue ear signs and symptoms

Often there are no obvious signs of glue ear, so it’s a good idea to get your child’s ears checked regularly.

People with glue ear might:

  • have problems with hearing, such as needing to turn the TV volume up
  • have problems with balance
  • have trouble sleeping
  • feel pressure or pain in the ear
  • be irritable.

If you notice any problems with your ears, or your child’s ears, see your doctor.

Glue ear diagnosis

Glue ear is easily diagnosed. Your doctor can look in your ear with an instrument called an otoscope. They can also test your hearing.

Glue ear treatment

Once glue ear has been diagnosed, the doctor might ‘watch and wait’, since it often goes away on its own. If there is an ear infection, antibiotics may be prescribed to help the fluid clear.

If problems such as hearing loss don’t go away within a few months, treatment with tiny tubes called grommets might be suggested. During an operation, grommets are inserted into the ears to help drain fluid away.

Last reviewed: April 2016

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 115 results

Ear problems - myDr.com.au

Common ear problems include otitis media, glue ear, ear wax and swimmer's ear.

Read more on myDr website

Middle ear infection and grommets - myDr.com.au

A grommet is a tiny tube inserted into the eardrum to allow air to enter the middle ear. Grommets can be used to treat glue ear and recurrent middle ear infections.

Read more on myDr website

Ears - Glue Ear and Grommets | The Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Eardrum perforation - perforated eardrum

Eardrum perforation can be caused by infection, a blow to the ear, injury from an object inserted in the ear, or exposure to a sudden loud noise.

Read more on myDr website

Middle ear infection or otitis media | Raising Children Network

Children with middle ear infections usually have pain or discomfort in the ear. If you think your child has a middle ear infection, its wise to see a GP.

Read more on Raising Children Network website

Ear infections

It is estimated that around four out of five children will experience a middle ear infection at least once.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Otitis Media (Middle Ear Infection) | The Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Background information Reviews Ear health (EarInfoNet) Other health conditions Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet

/uploads/docs/ear-background.pdf

Read more on Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet website

Otitis media in children - myDr.com.au

Otitis media (middle ear infection) is a common childhood illness that typically causes earache and fever.

Read more on myDr website

What is cefuroxime for?

Cefuroxime is an antibiotic used to treat bacterial sinusitis, pneumonia, and middle ear infections (otitis media). Find out more.

Read more on NPS MedicineWise website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback