BACKGROUND: Middle ear fluid is one of the most common ailments, affecting children in particular, resulting in more than 30 million doctor visits annually. A new prescription-only device allows kids to safely "pop" their ears at home to drain them without the need for costly doctor's visits, expensive surgery or antibiotics.
ABOUT THE EAR: There are three main parts to the human ear: outer, middle and inner ear. The outer ear is the part you can see and opens into the ear canal leading to the middle ear. The middle ear is a closed, air-filled chamber, separated from the outer ear by the ear drum, and ventilated by the Eustachian tube. Sometimes the pressure in the middle ear becomes higher or lower than that in the outer ear, causing hearing loss, severe pain, and the accumulation of fluid in the middle ear. The inner ear contains the hearing nerve that leads to the brain. It detects sound vibrations and turns them into electrical nerve impulses, which the brain then interprets as sound.
THE PROBLEM: Chronic middle ear fluid is a condition known as otitis media with effusion (OME).When this condition becomes persistent, and antibiotics aren't effective, it is often treated with surgical insertion of ear ventilation tubes. More than 700,000 children undergo this procedure each year. But the tubes often fall out within four to seven months, and the patients have a recurrence of the condition.
HOW IT WORKS: The Ear-Popper is a handheld, battery-powered device that delivers a constant, controlled stream of air pressure and flow into the nasal cavity, diverting air up the Eustachian tube when the patient swallows. This "pops" the ear so the fluid can drain, unblocking the ear and restoring hearing. The "popping" is nature's way of reliving pressure imbalance in the middle ear, and is caused by the opening of the Eustachian tube. In a four-year study, 74 percent of children diagnosed with OME-related hearing loss recovered their hearing after 7 weeks of using the Ear-Popper, with another 11 percent recovering fully within 11 weeks. The device will be manufactured and marketed by Micromedics Inc.