Picture of Health

Blow It Out Your Ear, Kid

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

The boy in the picture is using the EarPopper, which clears the eustachian tube (connecting the middle ear with the nose) of fluids and other secretions. Designed for kids whose ears are plugged as a result of recurrent ear infections, it delivers a steady stream of air into the nose. When the child swallows, the air is diverted up into the eustachian tube and relieves the negative ear pressure, allowing fluids trapped behind the ear to drain.

Daniel Arick, an ear, nose and throat specialist who tested the EarPopper in a study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, said that "for a great many children it will resolve middle-ear fluid and restore hearing." Until now, kids suffering from what doctors call "otitis media with effusion" have had two choices: a long course of antibiotics or surgery to insert plastic tubes.

A recent study found that a few weeks of home treatment with the EarPopper restored hearing to normal in 85 percent of kids with hearing loss due to persistent fluid in the inner ear, compared with 24 percent in a control group. The device, says Shlomo Silman, co-author of the study, can be used at home -- without the need for visits to the doctor's office. It requires a doctor's prescription.

-- Ranit Mishori

© 2005 The Washington Post Company