Glue Ear

Illustration showing anatomy of inner earA glue ear develops when phlegm and mucus from the nose pass up the thin Eustachian tube into the middle ear. It is difficult for these thick, sticky secretions to escape through the Eustachian tube to the back of the nose, particularly if the adenoids, which surround the opening of the tube into the nose, are swollen.

There is a feeling of blockage in the affected ear similar to that felt when descending (more common) or ascending a mountain and being unable to pop the ears clear. The glue may also be responsible for a middle ear infections (otitis media) and deafness.

Illustration of a grommet for glue ear treatment

A grommet
Image by Mccbala (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Examination of the ear by an otoscope (a tool with magnifier and light to look into ear) shows an opaque and bulging eardrum. Special instruments can measure the pressure in the middle ear.

The surgical insertion of a small tube (grommet) through the eardrum to relieve the pressure is often necessary. Recurrent cases may require the surgical removal of the adenoids, which are lymph nodes that surround the nasal opening into the Eustachian tubes.

There are very good results after appropriate treatment, but the problem may recur after the grommets fall out.

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