Glue ear

What is glue ear? 

Glue ear happens when part of your child’s ear gets blocked up with sticky fluid. Having glue ear can make everything sound muffled, like having your fingers in your ears. Your child may find it hard to hear you or their friends, especially when it is noisy. It can take lots of energy for your child to focus on listening so they might get tired or distracted easily. They might not hear words clearly which could affect their talking and understanding of words.  

Around eight in every ten children in the UK will get glue ear at some point in their childhood. There are a few different causes, but many children get glue ear when they have a cold. For most children it clears up on its own in a few months. 

What can I do to help? 

  • Help your child to hear by turning down the TV or music when you are playing and talking together.  
  • Make sure your child can see your facial expressions and body language by getting down to their level and being face to face when you are talking and playing together.  
  • Try to get your child’s attention when you want to talk to them by calling their name. If they don’t respond to you, say their name again, or touch them gently. This lets them know you are trying to talk to them and helps them to focus on you. 
  • Talking slowly will give your child more time to notice and think about what you are saying. Break instructions down into small chunks. Repeat things if your child does not seem to hear you and give them extra time to think about their answers.   
  • If your child makes a mistake with their talking, model how to say the words the right way. For example, if your child says, ’I see lil’ tat’, you could say ‘Yes, you can see a little cat. What a cute little cat!’. For more information on this see our speech sounds advice. 
  • Make sure that your child’s school or nursery know about their glue ear. They can find tips to help your child here. 

Does my child need to see a speech and language therapist? 

Glue ear can cause challenges learning to talk, but children normally catch up once the glue ear clears up. Having glue ear for a long time can cause challenges with learning new words or saying speech sounds the right way.  

If you have any concerns, you can talk to your child’s nursery or school, or use our progress checker.  Our progress checker is based on what we know about how babies and children develop skills. Choose the age of the child and then answer the questions. At the end, we will direct you to some helpful advice and resources. 

What will happen if it doesn’t clear up? 

Talk to your GP or audiologist if you are concerned. If glue ear doesn’t clear up after several months, some children get hearing aids or have grommets fitted. For more information, please visit the following links:  

National Deaf Children Society Parent Guide 

NHS Ear Glue information page