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Treatment of Persistent Middle Ear Fluid

Ear Infections and Language Development


Updated June 14, 2006

How can I help my child who has persistent middle ear fluid?

Promote a Healthy Setting

These suggestions will help all children stay healthy. They may be especially important for children who tend to get ear infections and ear fluid.
  • Wash child and adult hands after blowing noses or going to the bathroom. This will fight the spread of germs.
  • Clean toys that have been in a child's mouth before another child plays with them.
  • Follow directions for giving medicine so that it is given on time and for the entire time that is recommended.
  • If possible, breastfeed for at least the first four to six months of life to reduce the chance of otitis media.
  • Bottle- feed in an upright or slightly leaning position. Cuddle the child in your lap with his head raised up. A child should not be put to bed with a bottle. A bottle should not be propped in bed. Those practices may cause the liquid from the bottle to go up a small tube leading to the middle ear, causing middle ear fluid.
  • Keep children away from smoke. Cigarette smoke increases a child's chance of middle ear disease.
  • If possible, put children in small rather than large groups of children. Colds pass more easily in large groups, and colds in young children can lead to middle ear fluid.

Promote Listening

It can be difficult to hear and concentrate in a noisy area such as a classroom (with lots of children talking) or home (with TV on), even with only a small amount of hearing loss. These suggestions will help all children listen better.
  • Help children hear and understand your speech:
  • Get within three feet of a child before speaking.
  • Get your child's attention before speaking.
  • Face your child and speak clearly with a normal tone and normal loudness.
  • Use visual cues such as moving your hands and showing pictures in addition to using speech.
  • Seat your child near adults and children who are speaking.
  • Speak clearly and repeat important words, but use natural speaking tones and pattern.
  • Check often to make sure your child understands what is said.
  • Stand still when talking to your child to decrease distractions.
Decrease background noise, especially for children with hearing loss:
  • Turn off unnecessary music and TV in the background.
  • Fix noisy appliances such as heaters or air conditioners.
  • Limit play with noisy toys.
  • Encourage teachers to create quiet areas. For example, use dividers for small group play and reading.
  • Close windows and doors when it is noisy outside.

Promote Language Learning

Take advantage of opportunities every day to help children develop their language. All children can benefit from responsive language interactions, especially children with hearing loss due to otitis media.
  • Get down on your child's eye level when talking.
  • Listen to your child when your child is talking.
  • Talk about familiar things snacks, pets, rain anything your child knows about and is interested in.
  • Talk with your child during mealtimes, baths, and throughout the day.
  • Play interactive games with your child to encourage talking, such as pat- a- cake.
  • Ask simple questions and pause for your child to respond.
  • When your child says something, respond to what the child is talking about immediately and with interest.
  • Add to what your child has said by using more words.
  • Praise your child for talking, even if the speech is unclear.
  • Take your child lots of places (library, supermarket, the park) and talk about what you see there.
  • Say the names of things your child sees or plays with and describe things that happen.
  • Talk with preschoolers about what they did, what they will do, why things happen, and their feelings.
  • Encourage children to talk to one another.
  • Repeat language activities so children learn what to expect.

Promote Early Literacy Learning

Activities such as reading to your child help develop early literacy skills. Read often to children, describing and explaining pictures and referring to child's own experiences (" Spot is like your dog.").
  • Read slowly to children, pausing at times to ask questions ("What do you think will happen next?").
  • Give children books and magazines to look at.
  • Read out loud traffic and store signs, labels of packages, and words on a menu.
  • Let children draw and write using crayons, markers, and pencils.
  • Sing simple songs with repeated words and phrases.
  • Talk about sounds and names of letters.
  • Play sound, alphabet and word games that focus on beginning and ending sounds of words.
  • Play word and listening games to encourage children to listen to familiar patterns and fill in words.
  • For older preschoolers, play rhyming games such as hat, cat, bat.
Ear Infections and Language Development

by Joanne E. Roberts, Ph. D. & Susan A. Zeisel, Ed. D.

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