Nose Balloon

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i-c5d91975afb304287843bf150748d2e2-otovent01.jpgWhen she has a cold, my 5-y-o daughter often suffers temporary hearing loss. Her ears don’t get infected, there’s no pain or fever — she just can’t hear very well, sometimes for weeks. The reason is that the lining of her eustachian tubes becomes swollen, obstructing them, and then fluid leaks out of the walls of the middle ear, flooding it and putting a damper on her audio. These days Swedish doctors try to avoid putting drainage pipes through kids’ ear drums. Instead the excellent Dr. Claes Wibom (who’s now treating the fourth generation of my family) recommended that I buy my daughter a nose balloon.

Nose balloon. It’s a balloon fitted with a spherical nozzle so you can inflate it with your nostrils. A beautifully simple treatment.

The balloon helps a kid put air pressure on their eustachian tubes from the pharynx, which opens them and helps keep the middle ear drained. Us grownups do the same thing easily by just closing our eyes, holding our noses and “pushing”, like on air trips or while driving in mountains or scuba diving. But try to explain that push to a little kid!

My daughter uses the balloon with great gusto mornings and nights, and often she comments on the wind she then hears blowing inside her ears. That’s when an obstructed tube opens and admits air into her middle ear.

(Now, don’t confuse this with ear candles. That’s just woo.)


  1. #1 Onkel Bob
    May 26, 2009

    The Valsalva maneuver is part of the flight physical for the USAF.

  2. #2 Mikael
    May 27, 2009

    Linked by BoingBoing! S. is officially a net celebrity!

  3. #3 urfa
    May 27, 2009

    try a neti pot as well. looks daunting esp to a kid, but works well; and works for adults also.

  4. #4 chris
    May 27, 2009

    i’ve been doing this on my own since i was a kid. i’m afraid i’ve stretched my tubes tho, because i can now do it without even holding my nose, just passing air from my mouth up through my nose.

    i also thought this might force mucus into the tubes. but maybe i’m wrong. i try to not do it when i have a head cold, but it’s hard to resist when it gets bad.

  5. #5 Martin R
    May 27, 2009

    A good thing about the balloon method is that the pressure can’t get too high. The balloon just gives.

  6. #6 DRK
    May 28, 2009

    This is the greatest thing ever. Where can you get these?

  7. #7 Martin R
    May 28, 2009

    Here’s the web site of one manufacturer:

  8. #8 Joe
    June 12, 2009

    Neti pots are also available at

    Very reliable. I have used one since the mid 90s. Oh! inexpensive too! Just use salt without iodide. About 50 cents a box at Wal-Mart.

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