Glue Ear in Adults

Glue Ear is a common medical condition affecting hearing. It is also known as Otitis Media with Effusion or Serious Otitis Media. This can result in work and social difficulties as well as communication challenges.

There are three sections to the ear: the inner ear where balance and the nerves are located, the middle ear space where infections occur and the outer ear canal.

When the Eustachian tube becomes blocked – often due to a common cold – the middle ear fills with fluid rather than air. The condition derives its name from the fluid becoming sticky or ‘glue’ like over time. Approximately ⅓ of glue ear sufferers are adults.


Glue Ear is a painless condition causing hearing loss. If you recognise any of the following symptoms in your own behaviour you could be suffering with glue ear:

Dulled Hearing

The fluid associated with glue ear dampens the vibrations caused by soundwaves leading to a reduction in hearing volume.

Selective Hearing

Adults with Glue Ear can appear to have selective hearing.

Balance problems can be caused by ear conditions

Balance problems are known to be caused by ear conditions.

Using a Louder Volume

Finding yourself needing to increase the volume more than usual on household devices can be a sign of glue ear.

Communication Problems

Dulled hearing can lead to strained social interactions.



If you are displaying any of the glue ear symptoms you should consult your GP. Your GP will likely ask you to observe an ‘active observation’ or ‘watch and wait’ period if they suspect glue ear as the cause. This happens because roughly 50% of glue ear cases spontaneously resolve without the need for treatment.


50% of glue ear cases will spontaneously resolve without treatment


If your symptoms persist after the watch and wait period your GP will refer you to an Audiologist. The Audiologist will diagnose glue ear using a tympanometry test. You will probably be asked to continue the active observation period following diagnosis. If the condition continues after this, they will either refer you to your GP for an Otovent prescription or to an ENT surgeon for grommet surgery.

Watch and Wait / Active Observation

The wait for a diagnosis can be very frustrating. If you are having difficulties at work or in your social life the desire for treatment can be made especially urgent. The Otovent auto-inflation device is available free on prescription and over the counter at your local pharmacy. It can also be purchased from our transactional website, Otovent is the only clinically proven drug-free and non-surgical treatment for glue ear.

What is Otovent?

Referring to children diagnosed with glue ear, NICE recommend that autoinflation is tried during the active observation / watch and wait period. Non-surgical and drug-free, Otovent is an auto-inflation device. The balloons inside the kit are specially pressurised for opening the eustachian tube when inflated through the nose. This process allows the fluid associated with glue ear to safely drain away.

Grommet Surgery

Grommet surgery is difficult to obtain via the NHS, it is carried out under general anaesthetic and takes about fifteen minutes. A small plastic tube is inserted into the ear drum maintaining the correct pressure and allowing the fluid associated with glue ear to drain. Grommets typically stay in place for 6 – 12 months but in approximately ⅓ of cases can fall out prior to the glue ear being resolved. Repeat surgery can result in ear drum scarring.

Other Remedies

The following alternative treatments are not recommended by NICE or the NHS due to a lack of supporting clinical evidence: topical or systemic antihistamines, topical or systemic steroids, antibiotics, topical or systemic decongestants, cranial osteopathy, homeopathy, dietary modification including probiotics, immunostimulants, acupuncture and massage.

How To Use Otovent


Connect the balloon to the nose piece and hold the round part of the nose piece firmly against your right nostril with your right hand. Press the left nostril closed with your left hand.


Inhale deeply, close your mouth and inflate the balloon until it’s the size of a grapefruit, by blowing via the nostril.


Repeat the procedure with the left nostril. If your child experiences a pressure increase and / or ‘click’ in their ear you will know that the treatment is working.

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