Children with glue ear risk missing learning and socialising while waiting for the condition to clear. This innovative solution provides hearing assistance to kids with glue ear without the need for grommets.
Throughout the world, hearing changes are one of the many health challenges that children face. Children with hearing loss may have difficulty communicating and learning, and may also experience social and emotional difficulties. It can cause challenges in school, speech delays, and problems interacting with peers. Around 80% of children in the UK will have one or more episodes of glue ear before age 10. Eustachian tubes are tiny passageways that connect the middle ear to the back of the throat. They are responsible for draining fluid from the middle ear and equalising pressure on either side of the eardrum. These tubes in children are much narrower than in adults and can easily become clogged. When this happens, fluid collects in the middle ear, which can cause temporary hearing loss. Glue ear usually resolves on its own, typically within three months. In the case of persistent infections, surgically-inserted grommets offer a temporary solution for around 6-9 months. This gives the child their hearing back but isn’t without risk. Infection, scarring, and complications from anaesthetic may occur.
Hear Glue Ear, a non-invasive option to help kids hear
Hear Glue Ear is an pioneering solution that uses bone conduction technology to help children with glue ear hear while waiting for the condition to resolve on its own. A headset turns audio into vibrations which allows the sound to bypass the eardrum and go straight to the inner ear. This can help make out speech in a busy environment, and hear quieter sounds that would otherwise go missed. The headset works with a mobile app that uses games, songs, and audiobooks to help the child practice their hearing and avoid developmental delays. In addition, an in-app hearing screen monitors fluctuations so parents and clinicians can stay up-to-date on the condition.
Hear Glue Ear is one of ten innovators selected by the NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) for 2022. The program will support Hear Glue Ear and other creative initiatives with the goal of introducing the solution into the NHS over the next few years. Another innovator in the same cohort, Abtrace, uses AI to make primary care more efficient.
Image: Cambridge Digital Health