A nasal balloon can be used to deal with glue ear in children, say researchers at the University of Southampton. The findings were announced on July 27, 2015 and were published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Researchers say that this procedure can reduce the impact of hearing loss caused by otitis media with effusion (OME), also known as glue ear. OME is a condition in which the middle ear fills with a thick fluid that can interfere with hearing development in children. Children blow through one nostril and then the other into a nozzle to inflate a balloon. The balloon then blows air into the middle ear. The pressure in the ear returns to normal, clearing up the fluid.
Parents often do not seek medical help because there are no symptoms until their children start to have difficulties hearing. “Unfortunately, all available medical treatments for otitis media with effusion such as antibiotics, antihistamines, decongestants and intranasal steroids are ineffective and have unwanted effects, and therefore cannot be recommended,” says co-author Dr. Ian Williamson from Primary Care and Population Sciences.
Researchers held an open, randomized trial to determine if autoinflation with a nasal balloon could help to treat OME. The researchers studied 320 children aged four to 11 years from 43 family practices in the United Kingdom who had a confirmed history of OME with fluid in one or both ears. The children were randomly assigned into two groups, a control group that received standard care and another that received standard care with autoinflation three times a day for one to three months.
The children who received autoinflation were more likely to have normal middle-ear pressure at one month than the control group (47.3 percent vs. 35.5 percent) and at three months (40.5 percent vs. 38.3 percent. The children with autoinflation also had fewer days with OME symptoms.
“Autoinflation is a simple, low-cost procedure that can be taught to young children in a primary care setting with a reasonable expectation of compliance,” adds Dr Williamson. “We have found use of autoinflation in young, school-aged children with otitis media with effusion to be feasible, safe and effective in clearing effusions, and in improving important ear symptoms, concerns and related quality of life over a three-month watch-and-wait period.”
The authors of the study are recommending that the treatment be used more widely in children over the age of four to manage OME and treat the hearing loss associated with it. The procedure could be an alternative to surgery to insert drainage tubes, which do help some children.
The authors of the study note that there are some barriers to implementing non-drug therapies in clinical practice. For autoinflation, doctors need to know how the procedure is done and its effectiveness. Doctors must be able to instruct patients and families how to use the procedure.