Glue ear is a common condition found in children, regardless of whether they have PCD. It is caused by fluid building up in the middle part of the ear canal, which can cause temporary hearing loss. Grommets (a little tube inserted into the ear drum to keep it open) are a common treatment for resolving glue ear in children, but they are not usually recommended in PCD.
In healthy ears, cilia beat mucus and fluid from the middle ear to the back of the nose but in PCD this does not happen. As a result, many children with PCD have mild hearing loss and grommets will not improve this. In fact, grommets might increase the number of ear infections your child has.
In some cases, where there is more severe hearing loss (35-40 decibels or more), your doctor may advise grommets. In these cases, it is recommended that the insertion of a grommet is performed in just one ear, leaving the other ear free to use a hearing aid if necessary.
At age three, only 20% of children with PCD have normal hearing. This improves to around 60% by age six and by their early teens, nearly all have normal hearing. Some children with PCD wear hearing aids, which they often no longer need by early teens. There are also things that you can do to help your child if they have hearing loss, such as asking their school to let them sit at the front of the class. Please speak to your PCD centre if you are concerned about your child’s hearing
Your local education authority
Will put you in touch with a peripatetic teacher of the ear (or a similar title) at an early stage. You should try to form a good relationship with this person, as they will be hugely important to your child as they move into primary education.
The peripatetic teacher should be in touch with you very soon after your child’s hearing loss has been identified. Their role includes helping you identify a suitable nursery and school, acting as a contact point between the school and the education authority, arranging training of school staff, arranging provision of any equipment needed, and so much more. Think about the acoustics of the classrooms as well as the communal areas, corridors, halls, etc. Are carpets fitted or do floors have hard coverings? Check all the classrooms; remember your child could be at the same school for the next seven years, so more than one room needs to be suitable for them.
Are they ‘deaf aware’ or will they need training before your child joins the school? Remember that all staff will need to be ‘deaf aware’, not only the specific class teacher: this includes any lunch staff and volunteers who may help in school.
Who will support your child in checking hearing aids, using a radio aid, and generally ensuring that they can fully access all sessions? There will need to be an appointed person to help your child with this. Trust your instinct; if you have any unease about how your child would be supported, look at other schools.
Ask if there are any children at the school with additional needs (not only hearing-impaired children) and try to speak to the family about their experience of a particular school. Understanding other parent’s experiences can be a useful way of getting background information to help you make the right choice.