It's one of the most common problems in childhood. Fluid gathers in the middle ear, blocks the transmission of sound, and causes hearing loss.
Elizabeth Ciccone says it's a recurring problem for her son, Christopher.
"He wasn't speaking very clearly. He had difficulty enunciating,” Ciccone says.
The problem occurs when the Eustachian tube is underdeveloped. That blocks air from ventilating the middle ear and traps fluid behind the eardrum. If the condition does not clear up on its own, surgically implanting ear tubes is often the only option.
This battery-operated device, being tested at Brooklyn College, may offer a less invasive solution. Designed for home use, it helps the child pop his ears, the same way they're popped on an airplane.
"We're aiding the Eustachian tube to ventilate the middle ear by forcing air with a calibrated pressure and flow, up the Eustachian tube and into the middle ear as the child swallows,” explains Dr. Danile Arick, an Otolaryngologist.
In some children, hearing has returned to normal, results may be long lasting.
"Based on our limited data, the recovery seems to last between seven and nine months,” says Shlomo Silman, a Ph.D. from Brooklyn College of CUNY.
After using the device just three weeks, Christopher’s hearing loss has dropped from 45-percent to 20-percent.
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