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Treatment for Glue Ear in Adults

Man checked for glue ear.

Glue ear (otherwise known as cloudy ear drum or fluid on the ear) is a condition in which the middle of the ear (the area behind the eardrum) becomes filled with fluid which leads to hearing loss. Glue ear in adults is relatively uncommon as it is mainly suffered by children that are under the age of seven, however glue ear in adults and children is treated in much the same way and is completely curable. It is usually experienced during the winter months and is more prevalent amongst people living in “smoking” households.

Glue Ear Symptoms
The most common glue ear symptom is hearing loss – sometimes this will disappear on its own within a few weeks but in some cases it has been known to continue for several months. Glue ear may be experienced in just one ear or in both ears and there are a variety of glue ear symptoms that may accompany the hearing loss. These include:

  • Balance problems
  • Episodes of mild ear pain
  • Problems sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Appearing clumsy

When glue ear in children is experienced, parents may also see a delayed level of speech and language development.

Glue Ear Causes
No-one knows for sure exactly what the glue ear causes are however it is thought to be something to do with the Eustachian tube which runs from the back of your nose to your middle ear. This tube is what prevents clogging in your ear as it drains away mucus and it also maintains equal air pressure. When glue ear occurs, the tube loses its ability to drain away mucus. Although there is no known cause there are a number of risk factors that are said to increase your chance of developing the condition:

  • Living in a smoking household
  • Being bottle fed instead of breast
  • Having allergic rhinitis or a cleft palate
  • Having Cystic Fibrosis
  • Having Down’s Syndrome

Sometimes glue ear is caused by an undeveloped Eustachian tube – this is most common for glue ear in children though rather than adults.

Glue Ear Treatment
It is not often that glue ear treatment is administered, primarily because most cases of glue ear clear up by themselves within three months. However, if the glue ear is pretty severe or if it lasts for longer than three months you may be offered a hearing aid or surgery to aid with the symptoms. Further glue ear remedies that can be tried include using decongestants and antihistamines to lower the symptoms. However there is no medical proof that these glue ear home remedies work. Other glue ear treatment options that are more recommended for glue ear in adults include ear candling and Goldenseal capsules.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • John February 20, 2012, 10:40 am

    If you have children or are an adult who wants to prevent swimmers ear or have had ear tube / grommet surgery you can purchase ear plugs and a swimming ear band to keep ears dry during swimming or bathing.

  • Pauline November 1, 2015, 6:24 pm

    I have had a loss of hearing for approximately 3 months. First I was diagnosed with Swimmer’s Ear and given ear drops, which increased the hearing problem. I have had no pain (thank goodness) but some times feel ‘out of it’. I recently travelled to Australia and back after a 5 week holiday and the flight did not make any difference t my ears, which is good. An Australian doctor gave me ear drops and then antibiotics but still consistently hearing loss. On a recent visit to my doctor he has now diagnosed ‘adult glue ear’ and recommended a balloon type treatment, which I have not yet got but hoping this will assist – will it?

  • peter miles December 13, 2016, 8:35 pm

    My increasing deafness is making hearing the “right” notes in music esp in treble range.Sinus trouble in the past might be a factor,but a specialist has sai I might have “glue ear”.Can you advise please.

  • Emrys Jones March 13, 2017, 3:53 pm

    Read to the end. There is a mechanism which may help adults.

    20 years ago I lost my left ear. It was never properly diagnosed, but the consensus between me and the Consultant was that a virus got in and destroyed it; slowly and very painfully. 74db Tinnitus, two years of Vertigo attacks and constant pain lasting 6 years. As I have had increasing symptoms in my right ear, tracking what happened to the left, I have been getting very worried.

    A recent trip to my GP gave the diagnosis of “Glue ear”; I was never given that before. I had found that Distaclor 375MR stops it from hurting, but doesn’t take away the symptoms of deafness, stuffed up head etc. Not hurting is good, as not hurting probably means not getting damaged.

    Then I realized that I was dreading going to bed, because it was often far worse in the morning, and then improved slightly through the day. That is counter intuitive; sleep usually makes things better. I have always slept with one thin pillow, and it occurred to me that if I was sleeping on my right side that might prevent the Eustachian tube from draining correctly overnight.

    So I went to bed with a 50cm (20 inch) square cushion behind my back and a pillow on the top of that. Almost sitting up like people asleep in hospital in old films. Within an hour I had a repeated swallowing reflex and I felt a presence in my throat just next the edge of the jaw bone where the Eustachian tube joins the throat. In such an unfamiliar position I dozed rather than slept, and every time I woke I was swallowing.

    In the morning the bottom of my throat was rough, my ear felt battered, and when I turned on the tap into kitchen sink – it was shockingly loud. The developing low frequency tinnitus was gone, the stuffed head was gone, although music was still a tuneless jangle. I had almost full hearing.

    Over the next 5 days I got the full sound spectrum back and music became tuneful again.

    I have found that the position of the head is important, and the head keeping still seems to make a big difference, I suspect that I was just lucky and hit the right position for me first off. But I am successfully keeping my ear clean, and slowly, very slowly the tendency to fill with goo seems to be getting less.

    If you have a motorized recliner I suggest sleeping in that in different positions, with a cushion to keep the head in place. I find looking straight ahead with the head tilted about 10 degrees works best. And keep still.

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