A new study has found a quick, cheap and simple method of treating children suffering from glue ear, a common form of hearing loss – getting them to blow balloons with their noses.
The procedure is appropriately dubbed “nasal balloons” and has been found to work a lot better than expensive and ultimately ineffective antibiotic treatments.
Glue ear is a condition often encountered among young children. Their middle ear gets filled with thick fluid and the entire phenomenon affects how well they can hear. Patients typically show no symptoms, and parents only take them to see a doctor when they start to notice that their children seem to have hearing problems.
Dr. Jordan Josephson, an ear, nose and throat expert from the Lenox Hill Hospital (New York City), gave a statement explains why children are much more likely than adults to experience glue ear: “the eustachian tube – which is the tube that connects the ear to the back of the nose – often gets clogged” during sinus infections, allergies, and even inflammations linked to pollution.
Dr. Ian Williamson, lead author and researcher from the University of Southampton (England), gave a statement of his own saying that nasal balloons are worth a try in typical cases as the only current effective treatment involves surgery. Antibiotics, intranasal steroids, antihistamines and decongestants have all proven to be ineffective in treating the condition.
For their study, Dr. Williamson and his team tested how effective of a treatment autoinflation using a nasal balloon is. The researchers looked at a group of 320 kids who had a history of glue ear. All of the subjects had an age somewhere between 4 and 11 years.
Half of the children in the study were asked to blow into a nozzle through each nostril in order to inflate a balloon. They had to repeat this treatment three (3) times a day for anywhere between one (1) and three (3) months. As a measure of control, the other half of the children were sent to undergo standard-care.
What the experts found was that the children who were randomly assigned the balloon treatment had a much better chance of recovering than those who were randomly assigned to undergo standard-care.
Forty-seven percent (47%) of the subjects in the first group went back to having normal middle ear pressure after following the treatment for just one (1) month, whereas only 36 percent (36%) of the subjects in the second group went back to having normal middle ear pressure after following the treatment for the same amount of time.
And 50 percent (50%) of the subjects assigned the balloon treatment went back to having normal middle ear pressure after following the treatment for three (3) months, whereas only 38 percent (38%) of the subjects assigned to undergo standard-care went back to having normal middle ear pressure after following the treatment for three (3) months.
Dr. Williamson and his team concluded that autoinflation is a simple and low-cost procedure that adults can explain to children “in a primary-care setting with a reasonable expectation of compliance”.
But Dr. Josephson informed that the procedure isn’t a new one. He said that he has been treating his patients with it for decades and that the phenomenon is not unlike popping your nose to unclog ears that got clogged on airplanes.
The study was published earlier this week, on Monday (July 27, 2015), in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
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