Chronic secretory otitis media or ‘glue ear’ is a common and important cause of deafness in young children. Chronic infection in the middle ear and enlarged adenoids can lead to obstruction of the eustachian tube with the collection of a thick, sticky effusion in the middle ear. This results in the eardrum being sucked inwards due to the absorption of the air in the middle ear. The thick fluid prevents the bones in the middle ear from vibrating normally. This interferes with normal hearing. Chronic secretory otitis media can delay speech development and result in learning difficulties at school. On examination, the eardrum is dull and retracted. Either one or both ears may be affected. Pain is uncommon. Chronic secretory otitis media is uncommon over the age of 10 years as the eustachian tube becomes wider with improved drainage of the middle ear with increasing age.
Chronic secretory otitis media is a common cause of deafness in young children.