Glue Ear: Guide

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Listening skills

Studies have shown that there is a ‘sensitive period for the development of central auditory pathways ... within the first 3.5 years of life when the central pathways show maximal plasticity’ (Sharma et al., 2009).

A child with Glue Ear may find it difficult to listen to speech and straining to listen may result in reduced attention.

Listening is a process that consists of four stages: detection, discrimination, identification and comprehension (Erber, 1982).

This Auditory Processing Handout by Super Duper Publications explains the processes involved in learning to listen.  A child with Glue Ear may be aware of sound, but unable to discriminate between some of the sounds of speech.  Poor auditory discrimination skills will impact the development of auditory identification and auditory comprehension.

It has been shown that Glue Ear can have a negative long term impact on the auditory system (Whitton & Polley 2011).  As the auditory system develops, children learn to control their reactions to sound and can reduce attention being diverted to sounds that are not meaningful.  A child who has had a history of Glue Ear may have a delayed auditory system and deficits of selective auditory attention. The child may be more distractible and less able to focus on a listening task and avoid distractions (Haapala et al. 2016).


Erber, N. (1982) Auditory training. Washington, D.C.: Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf.

Haapala, S., Niemitalo-Haapola, E., Raappana, A., Kujala, T., Suominen, K., Jansson-Verkasalo, E., Kujala, T. (2016) Long-term influence of recurrent acute ottis media on neural involuntary attention switching in 2-yead-old children.’ Behaviour Brain Function January 12 (1) pp.1-8  [Online] [Accessed: 27 May 2021].

Lorainem, S. (2010) Auditory Processing - A Breakdown of Skills, Super Duper Publications [Online] [Accessed: 27 May 2021].

Sharma, A., Nash, A. and Dorman, M. (2009) ‘Cortical development, plasticity and re-organization in children with cochlear implants.’ Journal of Communication Disorders Volume 42, Issue 4, July-August.

Whitton, J.P and Polley, D. (2011) ‘Evaluating the Perceptual and Pathophysiological Consequences of Auditory Deprivation in Early Postnatal Life: A Comparison of Basic and Clinical Studies.’ Association for Research Otolaryngology 12. pp 535-546.