A simple fix for your child’s selective hearing

Does your child have selective hearing?  Well it might just not be the dulcet fatherly tones causing your child to ignore you, but a common middle ear problem called Otitis Media with Effusion – or “glue ear”.

(As discussed with Deborah Knight on The Today Show – Sunday 02AUG15)

It is estimated 9 in 10 kids will get glue ear at least once by the time they are 4 years old – that’s astounding!

Think of the middle ear as a drum, with sound waves resonating through it to stimulate the inner ear so we “hear”.  After a middle ear infection, the bugs can be cleared out, but the fluid can get left behind, becoming thicky and sticky like glue.  The middle ear no longer works like a drum, so kids cant hear properly.  And if they cant hear, their speech might be delayed as well.

In a lot of kids we watch and wait, and sure enough the fluid drains away through the Eustachian tube which connects to the back of the throat.  For the chronic or severe kids the only option is surgical – tiny ventilation tubes (grommets) are inserted into the ear drum.

The causes for this persisting fluid are not fully understood, but several middle ear infections, allergies, eustachian tube dysfunction, and parents who smoke are strong risk factors.  What we do know is that it is not caused by chronic infection, so repeated courses of anbtibiotics are useless.

Finally, there’s an option that may prevent thousands of kids in Australia needing an operation, and its super cheap and simple.

The Otovent is a small balloon designed to be inflated by blowing through the nose.  In doing so the middle ear is gradually inflated again by opening up the Eustachian tube, and the glue ear slowly drained.  Unfortunately its really only useful for the over four year olds as it does need a bit of coordination.

Whilst simple and safe, its still not a solution for all kids with selective hearing.  But if your kids are having trouble, pop in and see your GP, who may even need some help from an Ear Nose and Throat Surgeon.

Dr Sam.