New device aims to make ear health less invasive

Healthcare has arguably been the hottest area for technological innovation in recent years, with a good number of these innovations aiming to help surgeons do their job more effectively.  The latest of these is a handheld device, known as CLiKX, which aims to help surgeons treat otitis media with effusion (OME), also known as ‘glue ear’.

OME is a serious issue and is considered a major cause of hearing loss among children around the world.  The condition is an incredibly unpleasant one for sufferers, with fluid filling the middle ear instead of air.  If the condition is left untreated it can cause hearing impairment and even brain infections.  It can also have an impact on things such as speech development, and subsequently academic performance in children.

Surgical precision

CLiKX has been developed by the National University of Singapore with the intention of significantly improving the current methods of treating OME.

“The first line therapy for OME is usually the prescription of antibiotics and treatment of blocked ear tubes. But sometimes, the antibiotics may not be effective against OME,” the team say.  “For patients with three or more episodes of OME within a year—especially if there is hearing loss and speech difficulties, some with craniofacial predispositions, or those who are concerned about building resistance to long term use of antibiotics, grommet tube placement surgery is currently the gold standard of care.”

The new procedure allows the grommet tube to be inserted into the ear with a single click in under a second, whether in the consultation room under local anesthesia or in the operating theater under intravenous conscious sedation.  This reduces the amount of preparation and recovery required by patients, whilst general anesthesia is avoided.

“We expect costs, manpower, and resources to be lowered substantially, and this in turn, would be welcomed by patients, healthcare institutions, and insurers,” the team say.

The tube is inserted into the ear via a sensor-controlled automation process that reduces the contact time with the eardrum and therefore prevents over-deformation and excessive pressure for the patient.

“In many underdeveloped areas where proper healthcare infrastructure and general anesthesia are not always available, many patients with OME do not have access to treatment in a timely manner,” the team say. “Some of these patients have to live with the condition, its associated hearing loss and complications. CLiKX can make a significant impact by making grommet placement surgeries more accessible to these patients most in need, and it simplifies the procedure for doctors and patients.”

The team hope to begin human trials in 2018 with the aim of launching the device onto the market around 2020.