A groundbreaking but simple new treatment using a balloon-like device could help treat hearing loss in children. Kids with a common middle-ear problem could use the "nasal balloon" to combat hearing loss associated with the condition, cutting down the need for antibiotics and the side effects they impose, the University of Southampton reported. Otitis media with effusion (OME), or "glue ear," fills the middle ear with thick fluid that can harm hearing development.

"Unfortunately, all available medical treatments for otitis media with effusion such as antibiotics, antihistamines, decongestants and intranasal steroids are ineffective and have unwanted effects, and therefore cannot be recommended," said co-author Dr. Ian Williamson from Primary Care and Population Sciences at the University of Southampton.

The treatment was tested in a clinical trial involving 320 children between the ages of 4 and 11. The participants were assigned to either a control group that received standard care or a group that received standard care plus autoinflation three times a day for one to three months.

The trial revealed the children who received autoinflation were less likely have middle ear pressure than the control group at both one month(47.3 percent and 35.6 percent, respectively) and three months (49.6 per cent and 38.3 per cent, respectively) of treatment, and also had fewer symptom days.

"Autoinflation is a simple, low-cost procedure that can be taught to young children in a primary care setting with a reasonable expectation of compliance," Williamson said. "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 findings were published in a recent edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.