The Peterborough Examiner

Therapy eases plugged ears

Can reduce antibiotic use for children

- HELEN BRANSWELL The Canadian Press

TORONTO — A cheap and simple procedure appears to help children clear their ears of fluid, a condition sometimes called glue ear.

British researcher­s report that having affected children inflate a balloon by blowing air through their nostrils helped rid the middle ear of fluid and re-establish its proper air pressure.

Though not all benefited, nearly 40% more of the children who used the technique had fluidfree ears at three months compared to children who didn’t use the balloon therapy, researcher­s reported in the Canadian Medical Associatio­n Journal.

They said the technique could reduce needless prescribin­g of antibiotic­s. Studies have shown antibiotic­s are ineffectiv­e, but doctors often prescribe them anyway.

Lead author Dr. Ian Williamson said the technique might also reduce the need for surgeries to insert drainage tubes in the ears of children.

“Surgery is great. But here’s a medical interventi­on that also works,” said Williamson, a family physician and associate professor at the University of Southampto­n in Britain.

A video demonstrat­ing the procedure can be viewed on YouTube.

The term glue ear may not be familiar to Canadians. The proper name is otitis media with effusion, though it can also be referred to as middle ear fluid.

It arises when the eustachian tubes malfunctio­n. These tubes, which connect the ears to the back of the throat, drain fluid from the ears and maintain air pressure balance in the ears.

In small children, the tubes often become blocked, resulting in very thick fluid in the middle ears. That can lead to hearing difficulti­es and speech problems.

It usually resolves itself over time, said Dr. Johnna MacCormick, an ear, nose and throat specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa. But some need to have tubes inserted into their ears to drain the fluid.

Dr. MacCormick said the study showed the technique is effective for some children and should be one of the options doctors explore.

“It did seem like it helped them clear fluid faster,” said Dr. MacCormick. “It’s certainly something to be considered.”

A specially designed balloon is stretched and fitted onto one end of a nozzle. The child is then instructed to press one nostril closed with a finger and inflate the balloon by blowing through the nozzle with the other nostril.

“That pressure that you generate in the nose is sufficient to open up the tube that isn’t really opening properly,” Dr. Williamson explained. “It forces air into the middle ear. Then the fluid can drain out of it.”

The procedure is done three times a day for a month. If the problem hasn’t resolved, daily treatment is recommende­d for another two months.

Dr. Adrian James, an ear, nose and throat specialist at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, said use of the procedure probably could help some children avoid the need for ear tubes.

“Although ... the study hasn’t shown that it would reduce the need for surgery, if it did, a lot of families would be happy for that outcome,” said James.

Neither James nor MacCormick was involved in the research.

Nasal balloon autoinflat­ion — the proper name for the technique — may not be common practice in Canada now.

Dr. MacCormick said doctors at CHEO employ a similar technique using a device called the Ear Popper. But it costs close to US$200 online, where the nasal balloon kit costs around US$20.

Dr. James said doctors at Sick Kids Hospital have used the nasal balloons, but have had trouble recently buying them locally.

 ?? THE CANADIAN PRESS ?? A child demonstrat­es using a nasal balloon.
THE CANADIAN PRESS A child demonstrat­es using a nasal balloon.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada