New treatment for glue ear

New treatment for glue ear (otitis media)

Every so often, we'll hear of someone's child having grommets put in, to prevent recurrent ear infections. According to,  there is a new technique available to GPs that would avoid surgery.

The intervention is called autoinflation, and it involves using a nasal balloon, says Professor Chris Del Mar from Bond University, UK.

The first large randomised controlled trial involved 320 children, with recent history of otitis media and effusion, and confirmed fluid in one or both ears, from 43 family practices in the UK.

Children receiving autoinflation 3 times a day for 1–3 months were more likely than those in a control group receiving usual care to have normal middle-ear pressure, measured by tympanogram, at both one month (47.3% vs 35.6%) and three months (49.6% vs 38.3%) and to have fewer days with symptoms, including common colds and earaches.

“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 write.

Professor Del Mar says there are few effective treatments in primary care. Antibiotics have been shown in a Cochrane systematic review to be ineffective, and surgically inserted grommets have no benefit beyond six months and have no effect on speech and language development.

From an osteopathic perspective, children between the ages of 2 to 4 are most likely to develop otitis media due to the angle of the ear canal. In adults, it is at a slight incline and so helps with drainage. In young children, the ear canal is more horizontal so fluid can get caught in the ears more easily. Osteopaths who have experience treating such conditions will use gentle cranial/biodynamic techniques to improve the circulation and drainage through the head naturally.

Read more about glue ear at the ABC Health & Wellbeing site.

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