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Hearing 

Please note that due to the Covid-19 pandemic we were unable to see children for hearing tests for several months. We are now able to see children again but in significantly smaller numbers because of the requirements to maintain a safe environment and to clean the room and the equipment  thoroughly between appointments.


hearing - boy with headphones

Many children experience temporary episodes of reduced hearing associated with glue ear (see links below). The majority of these are self-limiting but may recur. In the first instance general support measures are all that is required (see below).

If the problem is persistent (more than 3 months) please discuss with your GP, Health Visitor or speech and language therapist whether a referral for assessment is indicated.

Glue ear is one of the most common childhood illnesses. For ears to work properly the middle ear needs to be kept full of air. Sometimes, particularly with colds, the middle ear becomes congested. This congestion makes it difficult for sound to get through. It then makes sound quiet and muffled. This is when you may notice your child not hearing well.  Symptoms can include needing things to be repeated, watching TV or using other electronic devices such as tablets in higher volume sound, failing to respond when spoken to, behavioural and emotional changes.

What you can do to help

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There are many things that you can do to support your child if you are concerned. For example:

  • Reducing background noise where possible – do not have music or the TV on in the background
  • Making sure that you get your child’s attention before speaking to them
  • Get down to their level when speaking to them
  • Speak clearly and check that they have heard correctly
  • Be patient
  • Choose somewhere quiet every day for activities such as stories together

Online chats and learning for those with a temporary hearing impairment from glue ear

Challenges and solutions

Video calls without captions - see if you can join a video chat with captions such as GoogleMeet (although they are not always accurate they may help), younger children who cannot read captions may still benefit from seeing the name of the person speaking.

Video freezing or cutting out - Optimising or boosting internet connections may help

Poor acoustics - encourage others to mute their mics if they are not speaking. Think about the home environment acoustics, quiet rooms with soft furnishings will improve the acoustics and make the lesson/speech easier to follow. 

Interaction is limited over a screen so attention wanes- ask the speakers to ensure they are clear and looking at the camera. More regular breaks may be needed. Hearing impairment leads to increased listening effort which causes fatigue. Children with hearing impairments will find concentrating to follow lessons harder, this may be particularly noticeable at the end of the day or a week on online lessons. Where possible if lessons are recorded this will allow children and families to review the content after a 'break'. This will be particularly important for lessons that use a lot of new vocabulary or are very speech heavy. 

Difficulty following content- pre lesson reading or a key word list of a new topic is always helpful. This allows children and their parents to review the vocabulary before the lesson, it is easier to listen and follow lessons when the vocabulary is familiar. This is particularly true in situations where there is degradation of the speech signals clarity, such as over video or audio link and listening in background noise. 

Parental support - parents work and do not always have time to sit with their child but identifying some chats or lessons where parents can dedicate some time to sit with their child is likely to help with engagement and supporting explanations. 

Headphones- using headphones to help the child’s audio experience may help. Hearing aids and headphones can often use bluetooth technology so that there are not wires around the child’s head or neck. Bone conduction headphones may be more helpful for children with a conductive hearing loss (which is the type of hearing loss caused by glue ear) , and also use Bluetooth technology. 

Fluctuating hearing - It may be the case that a child can easily access their online school learning one week but with a change in their hearing thresholds, for example during or following congestion from a cough or cold, the same technology and set up is harder to follow at another time. It is worth carrying out a 'sound check' to ensure that the volume settings, use of speaker/headphones, continues to give clear access to speech prior to the start of lessons. 

 

Contact your GP or NHS 111 service if your child has:

  • Hearing loss associated with severe pain and fever which does not settle with analgesia

  • Persistent runny/smelly discharge from ear

  • Sudden onset of very severe hearing loss

  • Suspected foreign body in the ear

Who can help?

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If you’re worried about your child, our team will be able to offer advice and support. You can Call Us on 0300 029 50 50 **Monday to Friday 8.30am – 4.30pm excluding bank holidays** ask to speak to the community paediatricians.

If it is life threatening, call 999 for an ambulance.

Urgent care will still be delivered by your local hospital if needed. If you do go to the hospital, please remember to take either your healthcare passport or your latest clinic letter from the community paediatricians.

For children with very complex health care needs we recommend parents to keep a short video recording of when the children are well, this is useful for clinicians to know how they normally act.

Need More Information?

  • Hear Glue Ear App (free to download on apple or android app stores – is a free award winning app for families who have children with glue ear: It aims to help self- management of glue ear at home with activities for the child to support listening and hearing. Look up Hear Glue Ear on apple or android App Store or click here to access the  website.
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