Welcome to Hear Glue Ear, dedicated to researching and helping children with glue ear. Glue Ear is the most common cause of temporary hearing loss in childhood.
Glue ear is caused by fluid/ mucus building up behind the ear drum often caused by a cough, cold or ear infection. This can sometimes cause a hearing loss because sound then isn’t easily transferred from the ear drum to the inner hearing system. For many, Glue ear often resolves on it’s own after days/ weeks, for some children it lasts longer which is when audiologists or doctors can help provide suggestions about best management. The medical term for glue ear is ‘otitis media with effusion’ sometimes abbreviated to OME.
This website provides…..
- Information about research studies within Cambridge about glue ear that families can read about or get involved in.
- Information about the Hear Glue Ear app
- Information about the type of hearing loss caused by glue ear.
- Important resources that have been earmarked by the NHS as useful for families suffering from Glue Ear.
We are particularly interested in the ‘Watchful Waiting’ period of Glue Ear management. ‘Watchful Waiting’ is the period where the child waits to see if either..
- Their hearing improves by itself.
- Their hearing does not improve and therefore a referral to the Ear Nose and Throat specialists (ENT) is needed to discuss other management options (such as a grommet operation or hearing support).
The concern is that some young children with persistent or recurrent glue ear might struggle to develop speech, language, listening, attention, auditory processing and social communication well when their hearing is reduced.
2016-2018 A study was carried out at Chear audiology centre (who kindly donated their equipment and premesis for free to help the research) with NHS patients aged 3-6 years old who had been diagnosed with glue ear to see if there was anything further that would help children during the ‘watchful waiting’ period. The study showed that simple bone conduction headphones may help children to hear while their hearing was reduced, it also showed that access to certain apps may help a child with speeech or language skills.
As a result of this study, two things happened
1. The Hear Glue Ear app: The Cambridge Hearing Trust Charity decided to fund a Hear Glue Ear app (software application) for apple or android phones/ tablets, that would be free to families to help children during the ‘watchful waiting period’ to have access to simple audiobooks, songs and listening games that may help their developmental skills while they have glue ear. The app also provides information to parents and infact the app also allows a speech & language therapist to upload a speech & language therapy video if helpful. The app won Children’s app of the year award on 2019 at the UK app awards and also was the overall winner of the Forward Healthcare awards from leading 1 health 2019. The app has also been assessed by a medical app company called Orcha (read the assessment here) who work with the NHS digital library, it has a CE mark as a class I medical device and was also quality assured and published by NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) as part of their shared learning collection on the NICE website.
2. The Hear Glue Ear headsets: The headsets used in the first research study are simple off-the-shelf headphones that work by bone conduction. Bone conduction means that the sound is transferred as a vibration across the skull bones and straight to the inner hearing system (cochlear), which simply by-passes the ear drum and any problems that may be affecting the ear drum, such as glue ear. The headsets are very simple and can be paired (by Bluetooth) to microphone to enable a child to hear their teacher or parent better, or the headsets can simple be paired to a phone or tablet and a child could listen to an audiobook or the app and have access to speech and language enrichment while they have glue ear. The headsets are now being trialled in Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge. If you are given a headset from Addenbrookes Hospital you can access the short video’s about how to best use your headset here.
HOW DOES GLUE EAR AFFECT HEARING
Here is a diagram of the hearing system. Sound reaches a child’s ear where the shape of the ear itself helps to ‘catch’ speech sound. The sound is funnelled down the ear canal. There is sometimes ear wax in the ear canal, (ear wax is the way your ear cleans itself, so parents are encouraged to leave ear wax alone unless it is blocking the ear canal completely and then ear drops are recommended or sometimes a medical appointment to help remove ear wax). Sound then causes the ear drum to vibrate and pass the sound across the 3 little bones (malleus, incus and stapes bones) behind the ear drum, which also vibrate and function to make sound louder as it transfers across to the inner hearing (cochlear) which looks like a beige snail shell in this diagram, but is infact where all of the sounds register (a little bit like a piano being played) before being sent down the hearing nerve to the brain.
Glue ear is caused by fluid or mucus building up behind the ear drum in response to a cough, cold or in the aftermath of an ear infection. (Sometimes ear infections cause the ear drum to burst and pus to come out of the ear drum as shown in the diagram above, this can be beneficial since any pus, mucus or fluid can drain out and the ear drum is usually pretty good at healing up quickly afterwards. However sometimes after ear infections, glue ear can develop).
The part of the ear behind the ear drum, housing the 3 bones that transfer sound is called the middle ear. You will notice on the diagram that the middle ear is connected to a tube (the eustachian tube). This tube helps to provide air from the back of the nose and throat, to enable the small bones to vibrate. With a cough or a cold, sometimes the eustachian tube gets slightly blocked. Also the eustachian tube drains fluid from the middle ear. People notice their eustachian tube opening when they try to pop their ears on an aeroplane. Blowing your nose also helps to open the eustachian tube although many young children struggle to blow their nose effectively. There is a balloon which can be blown up with a nostril called an otovent balloon, which some families find useful and has been shown to be effective and can be bought from many pharmacies.
Feel welcome to make full use of this website and contact us if there is other information that you believe would be useful to post or your own ideas about best practice in this situation.
This study would not be possible without the help of funding from the following:
Cambridge Hearing Trust : Relief of persons who are profoundly deaf, by research and the provision of electrical devices for surgical implantation.
Health Enterprise East. The leading NHS Innovation Hub for the East of England: A non-profit making organisation which supports the development of innovative new health products and services which meet the needs of the NHS.
British Society of Audiology. The BSA is the largest audiology society in Europe which aims to advance audiological research, learning, practice and impact in hearing and balance.
NHS East of England : Health Education East of England (HEEoE) is the Local Education and Training Board that covers Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. HEEoE is a subcommittee of Health Education England, and they exist to ensure the security of workforce supply and continuously to improve the quality of education, training and development in the east of England. We also aim to enable the health and care workforce to respond effectively to the needs of patients, carers and families.
BAPA: British Association of Paediatricians in Audiology – Winner of the BAPA Annual Prize 2017
Kate Farrer Foundation are a grant-giving and fund-raising charity. The Trustees ensure that all donations are used to support tangible medical and social welfare projects (in the UK and further afield) and that donors are regularly updated on grant allocation.