Half of the UK's mums and dads think their children are ignoring them when they are probably experiencing genuine hearing problems.
When children are accused of ignoring their mums and dads, they may actually be suffering from the common childhood condition glue ear and not exercising 'selective hearing' as nearly 46% of UK parents seem to think.
New research shows that only 3% of parents would think that their child had an undiagnosed hearing problem if they appeared not to hear them.
Medically known as otitis media with effusion (OME), glue ear is a build-up of sticky mucus in the middle ear resulting in differing degrees of hearing loss. Glue Ear is very common and it is estimated that 80% percent of children will have had at least one episode of OME by the age of 10 and approximately 178,000 cases are diagnosed annually in children under 12.
Glue Ear is most common in children with repeated colds or ear infections and usually produces few symptoms apart from fluctuating hearing loss but requires professional medical advice before it becomes too serious. In spite of the need for early diagnosis, only half of parents who suspected their child had a hearing problem would book an appointment with their doctor, almost a quarter would turn to the internet and a fifth would instead seek advice from teachers, family and friends.
More than a quarter of mums and dads said their child had suffered from glue ear, but a tenth of parents didn't realise that glue ear and other hearing difficulties affect a child's social skills, confidence and learning.
Persistent or fluctuating glue ear may have adverse effects on a child's development and progress, with studies showing that in early childhood it is associated with lower scores for spelling and writing ability whilst other evidence shows that it increases the likeliness of behavioural problems such as poor attention span and hyperactivity.
UK parents appear to be divided over what action to take when their children are diagnosed with glue ear. Nearly a third said they simply waited for it to clear up on its own and did nothing whilst a shocking 42% would have surgery to insert grommets straightaway if their child was diagnosed and an operation was recommended.
While few parents realise there is an alternative, in February 2008 the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) produced guidance on managing glue ear for the first time and recommended that during a three-month 'watchful waiting' period when hearing loss is tested before medical intervention is considered an auto-inflation device such as Otovent could be tried. Otovent is a special balloon which can be blown up through the nose to clear the tubes in the middle ear and studies have shown that auto inflation is an effective short-term treatment for children from the age of three years when regularly used under supervision.
Seven-year-old Liam Stevens from Basildon, Essex, has suffered with serious hearing problems from the age of three and after being diagnosed with glue ear, underwent two operations to have grommets fitted. In order to prevent him having another operation, Liam's ENT specialist recommended trying Otovent instead. Mum Amanda says: 'The transformation was unbelievable and his hearing is now above average in both ears. He's a different child now. Liam now plays the recorder and sings in the school choir, activities that were previously out of his reach. The treatment has been remarkable and I couldn't recommend it enough to other parents whose children are experiencing hearing difficulties because of glue ear, especially before embarking on an operation to fit grommets.'