New research indicates that nasal balloons can reduce hearing loss in children with a common middle-ear problem, avoiding the use of unnecessary antibiotics.

Otitis media effusion, also known as “glue ear”, occurs when the middle ear fills with a thick fluid, affecting hearing development. Currently there is no nonsurgical intervention proven to help with the condition.

In a randomized controlled trial researchers inflated nasal balloons, increasing nasal pressure and allowing the fluid to drain from the ear. The trial involved 320 children between the ages of four and 11.

The researchers acknowledge that the study was not able to be blind as the treatment required active participation from the children and their parents.

A video explaining the intervention and how it works is available here.

Original research paper published in the CMAJ on July 27, 2015.

Names and affiliations of selected authors

Dr. Ian Williamson, Primary Care and Population Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, United Kingdom