Glue Ear – (Otitis Media)the ear


Otitis media is one of the most frequent illnesses of childhood. It is an inflammation of the middle ear and may occur with or without effusion, (fluid).


The fluid can be thin and clear, thick, sticky or purulent, (with pus).


By the age of seven most children will have experienced at least one episode of Otitis media and approximately one third will have had recurrent episodes.


There is some suggestion that speech, language and learning disability may be related to recurrent or chronic Otitis media.


The list of possible causes of Otitis media is extensive; however a common denominator among many of them is the presence of eustachian tube dysfunction.


The eustachian tube is an air passage from the middle ear to the throat. It plays an important role in the health of the middle ear.


From an osteopathic perspective the anatomy of the cranial base and its related tissues may influence the function of the eustachian tube.


Immature or impaired immune responses, allergy, passive smoking and exposure to infected children are some of the causes of Otitis media. Regardless of what caused the event the role played by the eustachian tube, temporal bone and the muscles of the throat cannot be underestimated.


The eustachian tube is involved in the transmission of sound, preventing reflux of mucus and bacteria from the throat to the middle ear and drainage of fluid from the middle ear.


At birth and early life the eustachian tube is horizontal. As the bone it is housed in grows the orientation of the tube changes and tilts to a more vertical position. This will aid in drainage and explains why Otitis media is a childhood ailment and becomes much less common after the age of seven when the tube has altered position to facilitate drainage.


Another factor that can impede drainage is the pliability of the tube in childhood. It can allow particles from the nose and throat to be sucked back into the middle ear.


Your osteopath looks at the anatomy of the area checking muscles and tissues that are next to the eustachian tube and may be contributing to cause an obstruction of the tube.


Tympanostomy tubes can be inserted to improve drainage but they do nothing to prevent reflux or the sucking back of particles into the middle ear so infection can still occur.


At birth the cranial bone which forms the ear (the temporal bone) is in three parts that are connected by soft cartilage. The eustachian tube travels from the temporal bone and past the sphenoid which is another cranial bone and then through some throat muscles before it opens into the back of the mouth/ throat.


Torsion or compression between the developing parts of cranial bones or between different cranial bones can effect the tensions of any muscles that are attached to the bones. Many of the muscles that can be affected in this area are also attaching onto the eustachian tube and so will influence the function of the tube.


Cranial Osteopathy is used  to relieve some of the structural strains that could potentially cause an obstruction to the eustachian tube. The aim of this is to aid drainage and so promote a healthier environment in the middle ear.

If your child suffers from glue ear suitable medical treatment should be sought, however gentle cranial treatment from an Osteopath may also help drainage along side medical treatment.