Sussex ENT: Ear, Nose and Throat Surgery
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust
Worthing and Southlands Hospital

Glue Ear


What is Glue ear:

Glue ear, or secretory otitis media, to give it its proper name, is a common condition that accounts for deafness in up to 5% of children.

The basic cause of the problem is malfunction of the eustachian tube. This tube passes from the back of the nose up to the ear, and its function is to ventilate the middle ear and equalize the pressure on either side of the ear drum (tympanic membrane). The tube does this by opening when we yawn or swallow and we all have experienced the sensation of fullness in the ears when flying or going down a hill in a car, and found that swallowing relieves the pressure.

If the eustachian tube does not function, the air contained within the middle ear becomes absorbed and the partial vacuum thus formed irritates the middle ear lining causing it to secrete thick fluid which we call glue. This fluid damps down the vibrations of the ear drum causing deafness.

Although 5% of children may have this condition, most are only affected on a temporary basis, but if the condition is present for over 3 months then we believe that treatment should be instituted, because continued hearing loss causes both a social and educational disadvantage

How to treat glue ear?

Unfortunately there is no effective medical treatment and the main treatment is surgery or hearing aids.

Surgical treatment

It has been shown that adenoidectomy will improve the function of the eustachian tube in over 80% of cases, and this forms the basis of treatment. However, it may take up to 6 months for the hearing to return to normal, which is why at the first operation the child will have the fluid drained from the ear and grommets inserted.

Grommets are small plastic tubes placed within the ear drum that ventilate the middle ear and stop the fluid from returning.

Grommets do not mean No Swimming ears have only to be kept dry for the first 3 weeks.

How to manage grommets?

Post operative advice is here

How long do they stay in for?

Grommets usually stay in position for any time between 6 and 24 months.