Ask An Expert / Anxiety

Could an ear infection be causing my son’s anxiety?

Chronic hearing problems can make kids anxious

Michael Rosenthal, PhD

Hi my son has just turned 4 but the issues I have with him have been there for as long as I can remember. He has just been diagnosed with glue ear. He always seems to need to repeat what I have said to him and is continuously confirming this information until it has happened. He follows me everywhere even waits outside the loo. He always needs reassurance or a repeat of what is going to take place that day and in what order. He has no patience and demands right away to respond to absolutely everything he has on his mind. He is very bright and learns things really quickly. What could this be?

Some kids who have chronic ear infections have hearing problems, so I think the first thing you should do is get his hearing tested. If he has had chronic issues with hearing, then he probably doesn’t always understand what you’re saying, which can explain why he’s asking you to repeat things.

It could also help explain the anxiety it sounds like he’s feeling. If he doesn’t understand what people are saying but they are assuming he does, that’s going to cause some anxiety. It would also make him more likely to ask what’s happening moment-by-moment, simply because he isn’t sure.

But if you’re able to rule out any hearing problems, then it does sound like your son has some anxiety that is problematic if he is always following you around and wants reassurance constantly. So I have concerns about anxiety, and I also have concerns about impulsivity, since you also mention that. All of these things — problems with hearing, anxiety and impulsivity — can cause additional difficulties if they are left untreated, so the best thing would be to go see a specialist to get these issues evaluated more thoroughly.