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Glue Ear, Grommets and Ear Grief


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My ear grief started in the very early eighties. 

I was four when I chased an older relative with a cotton bud sticking out of my ear.  The cotton bud was accidentally pushed into my ear with such force that it ruptured my ear drum, commencing a life of ear infections, specialist visits and some hearing loss.

As mothers do, mine used every old wives tale know to woman to fix the problem; Blu Tack, drops of warm oil, ear candling, ear irrigation and good old-fashioned exile from the swimming pool.  Nothing really worked and the problems continued well into my teens.

Fast forward a few decades and my own son, coincidentally aged four, presented with his own ear grief.  He ended up on the operating table with a bad case of Glue Ear – a build-up of the fluid in the middle ear which can affect hearing long term.  He underwent a procedure that involved inserting miniscule tube shaped devices in his ears, called Grommets.  Grommets keep the ear canal open and allow fluid to drain out slowly over time.

Ear Grief- grommet illustration

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And so began my own motherly dilemma with ears, namely, how to keep them as dry as possible whilst still maintaining regular daily rituals.  There has been many a tear shed by both parties, but we’re finally on track.

My top five tips for preventing ear grief in little ones.

1.      Keep ears as dry as possible.  Like, super dry.  And if they happen to get wet, dry them out with a towel or tissue as well and as quickly as you can.

2.      Keep hair short.  Short hair is faster to wash.  I taught my little one to put the tips of his fingers into his ears on hair washing night to keep as much water as possible out of the ears.

3.      Keep out of the wind.  Wind has been dispelled as a myth when it comes to causing ear infections, but cold winds do make ear pain more severe.  Invest in a good beanie that can be pulled down over the ears.

4.      Swim with care.  Ensure your child swims in clear and clean water.  Head to a good sports store with a large swimming section.  The range of ear putty, waterproof headbands and latex caps will surprise you. 

5.      Don’t use cotton swabs on your kids.  Ever.  It might be satisfying to have a good dig around your own ears as an adult but doing this to children is like ear abuse.  The swabs may seem like they’re working, but all they do is push wax further down into the ear canal, increasing the chance of infection and other ear grief.  Don’t risk it.


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