PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s a first-of-its-kind FDA approved treatment used for a common ear problem that causes hearing loss.
Patient Denise Ashton is hoping to finally pass a hearing test following the procedure to fix her chronic ear and hearing trouble.
“If you would come up and say something into that ear, it’s all garbled, I can’t understand it,” said Denise describing her hearing problems.
The Ocean City nurse recently retired and is excited about traveling and spending time with her family, but the eustachian tube dysfunction in her right ear was a constant nuisance – one that doctors say is common.
Dr. David Rosen at Jefferson Hospital says eustachian tube problems are usually associated with children but they can occur in adults too.
The tubes help the ears drain fluid and also regulate air pressure. Colds and allergies are among issues that can cause dysfunction.
“It can lead to pain, chronic ear infections and difficulty with hearing,” says Dr. Rosen.
Traditional treatments include medications and tubes inserted into the eardrum but there can be problems with both of those treatments.
But now there is a new solution in the form of a balloon that is inserted into the ear.
It’s a dilation balloon called Acclarent Aera made by Johnson & Johnson.
It’s inserted while the patient is under general anesthesia using a catheter that goes through the nose and is threaded into the eustachian tube where the balloon is inflated and then deflated and removed after two minutes.
“It’s an offshoot of the old sinus balloon that uses pressure to stretch things,” says Dr. Rosen.
Denise says the outpatient surgery was easy.
Just weeks after the procedure, the healing is going well but her hearing still isn’t completely back yet.
“I think it’s wonderful and I’m very hopeful that I will see a difference,” she says.
While research has shown that the eustachian tube stays open, it could take some more time for her hearing to be fully restored after the balloon procedure.
The treatment is covered by insurance.