Language Development - Glue Ear

Glue Ear
(Medical name: Otitis media with effusion)

Glue ear is a painless medical condition where thick fluid builds up behind a child's eardrum, which affects their hearing. It's not too serious if it's only in one ear, but when it appears in both the child can't hear properly and will have problems learning more language.

(NetDoctor article)

  • 4 out of 5 children have at least one bout of glue ear in early childhood.
  • Children with glue ear experience different degrees of hearing loss. There may be no loss of hearing at all, or it may be quite severe.
  • The level of hearing loss may alter from day to day.


Children with glue ear may:

  • Have difficulty with attention and listening skills. They may appear inattentive or prone to daydreaming. Or they may seem to be hearing only when they want to!
  • Become quiet and withdrawn.
  • Be frustrated, over-active or have temper tantrums as their hearing level fluctuates.
  • Mispronounce sounds or words and speak unclearly.
  • Hear the same word differently on different occasions, so they have trouble learning new words.


  • Cut out background noise. Turn the TV or radio off when you talk to them.
  • Attract their attention. Get them to look at you before you start talking.
  • Speak simply. Try not to use long words and complex sentences.
  • Listen to what they're talking about. Don’t be critical about how they are saying the words.
  • Repeat back what they say, so they can hear what the words should sound like. For example: Child: "Dat my dar." Parent: "Oh yes, that's your car." But don’t ask your child to repeat back the words. Be patient and they will correct themselves; constant correction may make them too embarrassed to speak at all.

Remember to speak naturally. Shouting or over-exaggerating your speech can make it harder for your child to understand what you're saying.