Glue Ear

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What to expect

Glue Ear

What is glue ear?

Glue ear is the build-up of sticky, thick fluid behind the eardrum. This is a painless condition which can cause a blockage in the middle ear, resulting in hearing impairment.

Glue ear can also often be termed:

  • Middle-ear effusion
  • Chronic otitis media with effusion (OME)
  • Secretory otitis media

Symptoms of glue ear include:

  • irritability
  • behaviour difficulties
  • wanting the TV at a higher volume
  • requiring people to repeat speech to them
  • Leaving the ends off of their words as they cannot hear the whole word.

What problems caused by glue ear can speech and language therapy help with?

If glue ear is untreated it can cause the following difficulties, which speech and language therapy can help with:

What causes glue ear?

Glue ear is caused by the build-up of fluid in the middle part of the ear. The fluid prevents the normal movement of the eardrum and makes it harder for sounds to be transmitted to the cochlea to be heard.

Glue ear is more common in children as they have narrower eustachian tubes, which lie more horizontally than in adults. There is a higher incidence of glue ear in boys than girls.

There are several causes of glue ear which include:

  • Inflammation of the middle ear (acute otitis media).
  • Allergies causing inflammation to the middle ear.
  • Enlarged adenoids.

Other reasons that are associated with glue ear include:

How is glue ear diagnosed?

Glue ear will be diagnosed by an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. Glue ear will be diagnosed following a hearing test and other examinations.

Glue ear is not usually a long term problem for most children. However, some children can have persistent glue ear and problems with their hearing. In such cases, speech and language may be affected or delayed. It is the role of the speech and language therapist to assess and treat the child if they have speech and language difficulties. The speech and language therapist will carry out an initial assessment and develop an appropriate treatment plan for the childs specific needs or difficulties. A child with glue ear will be closely monitored and treated for any persistent speech and language difficulties.

How does speech and language therapy help glue ear?

If there are concerns regarding a childs speech and language development it is important that they receive appropriate speech and language therapy.

The speech and language therapist will help children with glue ear by creating an individualised treatment plan to suit their specific needs and abilities.

Speech and language therapy will focus on:

  • Establishing good attention and listening skills, providing a basis for speech and language development.
  • Developing natural and age appropriate communication skills.
  • Teaching parents / carers how to develop effective communication skills for their children.
  • Closely monitoring your childs communication development.
  • Phonological therapy
  • What would speech and language therapy treatment for glue ear involve?

    A speech and language therapist will perform an initial assessment of your childs speech and language abilities to establish whether their speech and language has been affected as a result of glue ear. Following this assessment an individualised treatment plan will be formulated in conjunction with the parents / carers of the child, to target any language delay and impairment and affected speech sound problems.

    The number and duration of Speech and Language Therapy sessions will depend on your childs communication needs. This can involve monitoring your childs speech and language progress at regular intervals whilst providing direct therapy sessions.

    Assessments and treatments can be carried out in a variety of locations including clinic visits, Home visits and school visits. Sessions can take place in the form of one to one therapy with your child or within groups, depending on the focus of the treatment session.

    An effective treatment option for children with glue ear is the insertion of grommets. A grommet is a small tube inserted in to a small hole in the ear drum, this allows any fluid to be drained and also for air to enter, resulting in dramatic improvements in the childs hearing. The speech and language therapist can help children who have had grommets inserted in helping them to develop in their speech and language skills.

    The speech and language therapist will work closely with other professionals e.g. educational staff in helping to support the childs communication.

    How do I arrange a speech and language therapy assessment for glue ear?

    To arrange an assessment with one our speech and language therapists please call 0330 0885 643.


    Glue ear is a condition where thick, sticky fluid builds up behind the eardrum. This is a painless condition which can cause a blockage in the middle ear, resulting in hearing impairment. This hearing impairment can cause a delay to speech and language development. A child will respond well to speech and language therapy treatment which can often resolve any speech or language problems. The speech and language therapist will create and individualised treatment plan for the child and their parents / carers. If you feel you and your child will benefit from speech and language therapy please email or call 0330 0885 643.

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    To speak to a Speech and Language Therapist or to book an appointment, call us on 0161 883 0111 or email


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