Dr Bernadette Carr answers your questions on hearing difficulties and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Dr Bernadette Carr gives her advice on what to do if you have concerns about your child’s hearing and if you have tingling or numbness in your fingers or hands.

Q. I have noticed recently that my six-year-old son seems to have difficulty hearing at times. 

At the weekend he was rubbing his ears, although when I asked if they were sore, he said no. 

Also, he always seems to have a runny nose. 

Should I bring him to the GP?

A. If you have concerns about your son’s hearing it is very important to get it assessed. 

Glue ear typically occurs in children who are between one and six years old and is a common occurrence. It can also occur outside of this age group.

Chronic inflammation can happen after an episode of inner ear infection or after recurrent ear or respiratory tract infections such as head colds.

Glue ear occurs more commonly in children who live in houses where people are smokers or in children who have had cleft palate or enlarged adenoids. 

It will cause a build up of thick fluid in the ear which can cause hearing disturbance — some children may have several episodes over time. 

This can vary in its severity and sometimes is very mild. Pain does not commonly come with glue ear but your child may pull at his ears.

In the majority of cases, glue ear will resolve on its own in within the first three months and can be managed by watching and waiting. 

In some cases it may be decided that surgery is of benefit to drain the excess fluid and improve hearing; this is especially the case if the problem does not resolve over a long period or is associated with severe hearing loss or other conditions which may affect hearing. 

In this case an ear, nose and throat surgeon will perform a small operation to put a grommet (ventilation tube) in the ear drum after letting out excess fluid. 

This grommet will then usually fall out after a six months. Any disturbance or change in your child’s hearing should be reviewed by a doctor.

Q. Occasionally, I get a numbness or tingling in the thumb and two or three fingers of my hands. 

The sensation does not last for long but every so often moves into the palm of my hand. Are there some exercises I should do to avoid this?

A. If the nerves supplying the fingers in the hands are damaged, compressed or irritated, symptoms of tingling and numbness can occur. 

Numbness and tingling in the thumb and first two fingers occurs in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome which is caused by compression of the median nerve supplying the fingers and thumb. 

This compression often happens at the wrist when the nerve becomes compressed and doesn’t have enough room.

There are a number of different reasons for symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. It can occur in people with a family history of the condition or due to trauma or manual work with vibrating tools. 

Sometimes it can happen in people with diabetes mellitus or thyroid problems. Pregnancy and menopause can also be associated with the condition.

It is a good idea to see your doctor who can fully assess your symptoms and decide on the best treatment. 

In some people the condition will go away on its own, however, this can take from six months up to a year. 

It is especially likely to resolve on its own if it occurs due to general swelling as part of pregnancy.

Sometimes physiotherapy exercises can help to relieve the symptoms by improving flexibility, blood flow, and strength. 

If the condition is progressing or worsening, sometimes an operation is performed at the wrist to increase the space available for the median nerve and reduce pressure on the nerve causing symptoms.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications or steroid injections into the wrist may help with symptoms and sometimes a splint worn at night can help to resolve the issue.

It is important to avoid any activities which bring on the symptoms or make them worse.


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