The most common sign of glue ear is hearing loss, which can affect one or both ears.

If your child is struggling to hear, they may:

  • have difficulty understanding people who are far away
  • speak quietly
  • appear unusually tired or irritable, because they have to try harder to listen to things
  • have problems picking out conversations in places where there's a lot of background noise
  • easily "tune out" of conversations when they're distracted
  • only be able to understand face-to-face conversations that take place at a short distance
  • experience problems with communication and learning, and social skills (these problems will usually resolve once normal hearing is restored)

Read more about the symptoms of hearing loss.

Less common symptoms

Less common symptoms of glue ear include:

  • episodes of mild ear pain
  • irritability
  • problems sleeping
  • balance problems and clumsiness
  • tinnitus  
  • delayed speech and language development in younger children, if the condition lasts a long time

When to seek medical advice

It's important to see your GP if you're concerned that your child may be having hearing problems.

While glue ear is usually the most common cause of hearing loss in children, further tests may be needed to rule out other possible causes.

Read more about diagnosing glue ear.

Page last reviewed: 04/06/2015
Next review due: 30/11/2017