One in five children between the ages of one and three years old will experience glue ear this winter.
The National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS) is warning parents and professionals to be on the lookout for this common illness that can easily be mistaken for stubbornness and rudeness, with damaging affects on early education and social development.
Severe glue ear, like permanent deafness, makes it harder for children to learn to communicate. This can delay crucial early speech development, also affecting behavioural and educational progress.
Glue ear occurs when the middle ear becomes blocked with fluid. It is one of the most common childhood illnesses and reasons for children to visit their GP. To identify glue ear parents and professionals should watch for changes in children's behaviour. Telltale signs of the illness include becoming tired or frustrated, a lack of concentration, preferring to play alone and not responding when called.
Approximately four in five children have had glue ear by the time they are four years old 2 and whilst some children may have mild glue ear which shows no symptoms and clears up by itself, the condition does cause long-lasting hearing problems in approximately 1 in 20 five year olds
The NDCS, the UK's leading charity for deaf children, is raising awareness of glue ear this winter and offering free information and advice to concerned parents and professionals.
Vicki Kirwin, NDCS audiologist explains: "Often glue ear is associated with a heavy cold and will clear up when congestion from the cold has gone. Whilst mild cases of glue ear may show no or very few symptoms, severe glue ear, like permanent deafness, can make it harder for children to learn to communicate. NDCS wants to make sure children with glue ear don't miss out on their early education and social development. If parents are concerned they should talk to their GP."
A free NDCS glue ear information leaflet and poster is available for parents, teachers and others working with children. It can be downloaded from the NDCS website at www.ndcs.org.uk. If parents have concerns about glue ear or their child's hearing, phone the Freephone Helpline 0808 800 8880 (voice and textphone) 10am to 5pm Monday to Friday. This service is also available in languages other than English.
Mild cases of glue ear may simply clear up, particularly if it is associated with a heavy cold. If it has been caused by an ear infection, your GP may prescribe a course of antibiotics. Persistent and severe glue ear may be treated with the fitting of grommets to the ear drum. These are tiny plastic tubes inserted surgically to allow air to circulate in the middle ear and stop more fluid building up.
Three babies are born deaf every day and 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents with little experience of deafness. There are 35,000 deaf children in the UK. NDCS use the term 'deaf' to mean all types of deafness, including temporary deafness such as glue ear.