App tackles problem of ‘glue ear’ in children

Early Ears

3 April 2014

Aston University is tackling the problem of ‘glue ear’ in children with a free* hearing test app for any concerned families.   

The main cause of temporary childhood deafness in young children is ‘glue ear’, which is prevalent during colder months. Known medically as otitis media with effusion, ‘glue ear’ is associated with a build-up of fluid in the middle ear. 

Around one-in-five children will have the condition two years of age. About 80 % of children will have at least one episode by the age of ten. Over weeks and months the fluid becomes very thick and glue-like, which increases the likelihood of its causing hearing impairment. Usually it is not painful, but failing to detect hearing loss at a young age can greatly hinder language and speech development. 

The Early Ears app, created by audiologists at Aston University, offers a digital version of the McCormick Toy test, which most paediatric health clinics use to help detect hearing loss in young children. 

Designed for an iPhone, iPad, or iTouch, the test can be used at home in a quick and fun way –using clear pictures and professionally recorded sounds.   The app, which is free until April 10th, 2014 and 69p afterwards, also has access to social media platforms for parents to share results and experiences. 

The app offers reassurance and guidance for concerned parents and children find the app fun and playful

Dr Robert Morse from Aston’s Audiology team, who helped to develop the app, said; “Early Ears quickly enables you to test your child’s hearing in your own home.  The app offers reassurance and guidance for concerned parents and children find the app fun and playful.  I recently watched a parent use it with their daughter who is just under two year’s old and the daughter thought it was just a game.” 

Dr Morse added; “While this app is a good way to help you detect  any hearing problems, if you do notice your child has had several episodes of glue ear, or you are at all concerned about potential hearing loss, then you should discuss it with a medical advisor, for example your school nurse, audiologist, or doctor.” 

For further details on the app visit or watch the Aston University YouTube video for the Early Ears App:


For further media information please contact Alex Earnshaw, University Communications on 0121 204 4549 or [email protected]

*The app is now available and free to download from iTunes until Thursday April 10th, 2014. After this time it will be available for 69p. 

Notes to editors:

How the Early Ears App works

The interactive test presents up to eight pictures at a time and children are asked to touch the picture that corresponds to the app’s audio instructions, which are broadcast at different volumes. The test takes about 1 to 3 minutes to complete depending on the child’s age and any hearing difficulty. The results are then personalised to each child and offer parents easy-to-understand information about the level of hearing difficulty, and a recommendation of what the parent should do next.  Early Ears also provides reassuring information about the common causes of hearing difficulty in children and how that can protect their child’s hearing. 

The Early Ears test is based on the McCormick Toy Test and has been developed in conjunction with Professor Barry McCormick OBE, who is the President of the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS).  The standard test has been used in most paediatric audiology clinics in the UK since 1977.  A complete description of the clinical test is given in McCormick (2003) “Paediatric audiology 0-5 years”, Wiley-Blackwell.  

The test is particularly suitable for 2 to 8 year olds, but can also be used with older children.