Sub-Sonic Vibrating Device For Opening Eustachian Tube In Middle Ear Inflammation

Inflammation of the inner ear (OM) is extremely common in children as well as affecting quite a few adults. Recurrent, protracted ear inflammation causes severe pain, restlessness and muffled hearing, which can hamper development and prejudice learning. Ear inflammation is one of the main reasons for visiting the doctor or the emergency room.

Blockage of the Eustachian tube (OT) which links the middle ear cavity to the oral cavity can be a main cause of inflammation or a secondary factor – caused by inflammation and swelling of the mucus membrane of the ear and blocking the Eustachian canal.

Opening the Eustachian tube is an important and even essential step towards healing the inflammation. Blockage of the canal prevents drainage of the fluids secreted by the mucosal membrane of the middle ear and prevents equalization of the atmospheric pressure on either side of the eardrum. This increases the pressure inside the ear cavity and pushes the eardrum outwards, leading to pain, muffled hearing, and occasionally problems with balance. Moreover, increased pressure in the middle ear cavity prevents the absorption of medication into the region via local osmosis (eardrops) or systemically (via the blood).

Prevailing medical treatment – until now, treatment has involved the use of steroids and pseudo-epinephrine to reduce edema, with antibiotic cover for primary bacterial infection or secondary complication. If medical treatment fails and inflammation recurs despite extended antibiotic treatment, the usual practice is to perforate the tympanic membrane and ensure that it remains open by inserting tiny drainage tubes. The procedure is also called ear tube surgery. This allows the contents of the middle ear cavity to drain out, equalizing pressure, improving hearing, stopping pain, and permitting medication to enter locally and heal.

Figure 1. The Eardoc

Figure 1. The Eardoc

The newly invented device is called the EarDoc (Figure 1). EarDoc is a small, low cost electrical device for treating and opening the Eustachian tube. It works by producing vibrations at a sub-sonic frequency. The instrument head is specially designed so that when positioned behind and resting on the base of the ear, the bulge on the head of the device lies against the mastoid bone and the pointed front section rests against the base of the ear.

The front of the head of the device causes the cartilage of the ear base to vibrate along the outer ear canal to the tympanic membrane. The vibrating membrane produces tiny pressure waves affecting the airand pressurized fluids of the middle ear cavity. The previously constant pressure inside the middle ear cavity is converted into cyclical waves, which acting as shock waves exert pressure on the walls of the narrowed or blocked Eustachian tube. In addition, the vibrations from the head of the device via the mastoid bone to the wall of the middle ear cavity produce vibrations in the swollen mucus membrane of the middle ear canal and the Eustachian tube, reducing edema. This combined action tremendously improves the possibility of opening the canal and enabling trapped air and fluids from the middle ear cavity to drain into the mouth.

Adjusting the frequency helps to improve the efficacy of the device in several ways: the optimum operating frequency is different for each individual depending on the size of the middle ear cavity and the Eustachian tube, which naturally vary. Frequency adjustment also improves the oscillation of the mucosal membrane. It is recommended that the patient should gradually adjust the frequency to cover the entire frequency range. EarDoc should be used for 3-5 minutes approximately six times a day when the canal is narrowed or blocked. This improves the likelihood of opening the canal and ensuring it stays open, and provides instant pain relief, improved absorption of medication, and healing of the inflammation.

Air travel and diving – Blockage of the Eustachian tube is a commonplace consequence in air travel and underwater diving. Fluctuating differences in atmospheric air pressure on both sides of the tympanic membrane cause reduced pressure in the middle ear cavity, swelling of the mucus membrane cells in the inner ear, and increased fluid secretion. This produces a vicious circle in which the greater the difference in pressure, the narrower the Eustachian tube becomes and the less effectively it can drain fluid and equalize air pressure. Impaired functioning of the tube causes insufficiency in the canal and blockage. Inflammation of the pharynx and upper respiratory tracts leading to early swelling of the mucosal membrane exacerbate the phenomenon and risk of blockage. Use of EarDoc during flights and following diving sessions can reduce pain and produce healing as described above.

Sinus inflammation – like the middle ear cavity, when the sinus drain is blocked due to swelling or inflammation of the sinus cavity mucus membrane, EarDoc can help by resting it against the bone adjacent to the sinus in order to open the closed opening and allow drainage and healing.

Eardoc featured in the “Medical News Today” online health news archive.