Otitis media with effusion

Alternative Names

OME; Secretory otitis media; Serous otitis media; Silent otitis media; Silent ear infection; Glue ear

Definition of Otitis media with effusion

Otitis media with effusion (OME) is when there is thick or sticky fluid behind the eardrum in the middle ear, but there is no .

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The Eustachian tube connects the inside of the ear to the back of the throat. This tube helps drain fluids to prevent them from building up in the ear. The fluids drain from the tube and are swallowed.


Unlike children with an ear infection, children with OME do not act sick.

Signs and tests

The health care provider may find OME while checking a child’s ears after an ear infection has been treated.


Unless there are also signs of an infection, most health care providers will not treat OME at first. Instead, they will recheck the problem in 2 – 3 months.

Expectations (prognosis)

Otitis media with effusion usually goes away on its own over a few weeks or months. Treatment may speed up this process. Glue ear may not clear as quickly as OME with a thinner effusion.


Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 7/26/2010

Ear anatomy
Middle ear infection (otitis media)

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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