Plugged Ears & Behavior in Children

By Amy Sutton
Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Getty Images

Ear problems affect many children and can become disruptive to their daily lives if left untreated. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, three out of four children are plagued by an ear infection before their third birthday and it's one of the most common reasons for doctors visits. Not only can ear problems be painful, they can also cause changes in behavior.

Signs to Watch For

When a child has clogged ears, whether it be from fluid, ear wax or an ear infection, be on the lookout for some signs. One of the most common symptoms of an ear problem is pain -- what is commonly known as an earache. Sometimes an ear infection can cause a child to run a fever and have sleeplessness. You can watch for tugging at the ears in younger children, and fussiness, balance problems and fluid draining out of the ear.


Fluid can build up in a child's ear because of a common cold, the flu, seasonal allergies, a past ear infection or from dysfunction of the Eustachian tube. An ear infection can be caused by a variety of reasons, such as bacteria that grows when excess fluid builds up behind a child's eardrum. A child's ear can also be clogged because of too much earwax. Earwax is made up of secretions inside the ear canal and normal amounts of it can protect the ear canal from water. It also helps fight infections.

Behavior and Problems

Whatever the source of your child's plugged ears, it can cause problems in your child's life. Earwax, fluid and ear infections can cause temporary hearing loss that can sometimes lead to speech and language delay if left untreated, according to and the American Academy of Pediatrics. This can in turn create problems with schoolwork and learning delays in children. Teachers might think your child is not paying attention during school, when it's actually because he cannot concentrate.


Children with ear problems can get relief. If too much ear wax appears to be the problem, consult your child's pediatrician to see whether he can clean your child's ears. Doctors can do this using an earwax scoop. If your pediatrician gives the OK, you can flush his ears yourself. suggests mixing a 1 part water and 1 part hydrogen peroxide solution or buying an over-the-counter ear flushing solution. For chronic ear infections, your child's doctor might refer you to an ear, nose and throat doctor to have ear tubes put in. According to WebMD, these tubes are inserted through a small opening made in the eardrum and the tubes will allow fluid to drain properly, let air enter the middle ear to improve hearing and lessen the feeling of pressure in the ear, which can reduce pain.