One in Ten Children
Suffer with Fluid in their Ears
By Anne Colledge
One in ten children suffer with fluid in the ear, one in one thousand children
have a profound hearing loss, but the latter gets the lions share of
the attention. Yet in the thirty years I worked as a teacher for hearing impaired
children I found that many educational problems for children were caused by
mild hearing losses. When I did a speech test on children with these problems
they heard only half of the words in the test. They would only hear half that
was said to them in conversation, or at school or nursery. If we sent our
children to school for half the day we would quickly get into trouble.
What is fluid
in the ear? The middle ear should be filled with air. When we swallow the
eustation tube should open and air goes into the middle ear which allows the
ear to work properly. In children the eustation tube is shorter and often
becomes blocked. Fluid, like glue, builds up and hearing is poor. Fluid in
the ear is most common in children under four years of although older children
also suffer with it as do adults.
Why has little
attention been paid to mild hearing losses? Often they are intermittent. This
is disturbing for the child. Imagine hearing well one day and poorly the next.
Teachers say, He hears when he wants to.
How can we
tell when a child has a hearing loss? Parents are good observers of their
own children. Does your child look anxiously at your face as if trying to
lip read? Do they understand questions in a noisy place, such as at the nursery?
Call your childs name when they are watching TV. Do they respond? Are
they withdrawn or disruptive? Hearing problems lead to both ends of the spectrum.
I think the disruptive do better as they demand attention, and get their problems
under four, are most at risk for fluid in their ears leading to poor hearing.
Notice any delay language. Do not wait and see what happens, get a hearing
test anyway. If there is no problem your mind will be at rest. Otherwise time
is wasted. Time is very important to a child. There is an optimum time for
learning to speak. Why delay? No one wants to face up to problems. We all
put things off. His older sister is speaking for him, we say.
Get a hearing test anyway. I have heard people say, They will catch
up. This is true but children have a lot to learn in a short space of
time. Why should they have other stresses added to this when we can help them?
See a doctor.
ear goes away by itself in time, but a doctor needs to be consulted to make
sure that an infection does not start up in the fluid, and antibiotics may
be needed to make sure the infection does not spread down the ear, which is
an ideal place for germs to grow. If the fluid does not go grommets, small
tubes, are inserted in the eardrum to allow air in. During the time when the
child has a hearing loss much can be done to mitigate the effects on development
optimum distance for your child to hear. Get as close as you need to and teach
the child to get close to the person speaking. Cut down background noise.
Switch off the TV. Explain the hearing problems to the school or nursery.
When my grandson
came to stay with me recently we noticed he was a slow talker but we were
not too worried about this. He was also rather quiet, but we thought that
was his nature. However, I noticed he was tapping me to get attention and
at two could not say many words. He was getting frustrated. His parents took
him for a hearing test and were told he had a bad hearing loss caused by fluid
in his ears. We began to get down to his level to speak to him and allow him
to lip read. We did not call to him from another room. He soon lost his anxious
look and became more out going. Luckily, the fluid cleared itself in a few
months. The intervention helped him a lot in the meantime.
again recently and was able to say, Im very tired. It was
wonderful because he was able to tell us what the problem was. Biscuit,
please, he said later and did not have to point and I did not have to
get lots of things out of the cupboard to try and guess what he wanted. This
is the difference between a mild hearing loss which has been recognized and
dealt with. It takes the frustration out of family life at home and helps
the child at school or nursery.
If in doubt
about a childs hearing always get advice from your doctor and get a
hearing test done. Hearing problems are not simple. Take expert advice on
them. A childs development is very important at every stage. It must
not be held up when we can do something to help.
MEET YOUR PAL
was educated at Homerton College, Cambridge, UK and has an honours degree in
Psychology and English. Anne taught deaf children for over 30 years. She has
five grandchildren, two in the UK and three in the USA. She enjoys kayaking,
is the author of Northern Lights, a book of short stories for children, where
the hero is a boy who is deaf. In each story a different aspect of deafness