2005_11_health_earpopper.jpg Anyone flying this holiday season can count on their ears getting "clogged" as their plane climbs and descends. This can usually be easily remedied by either swallowing or, more comically, by pinching one's noses and breathing forcefully into it. However, for many children this act of ear "popping" is impossible to perform and, thanks to a normally underdeveloped Eustachian tube (the pathway which connects our ears to our oral cavities), will end up with excess fluid in their middle ear cavities leading to discomfort, hearing loss, and, even, infection.

Well, a professor of hearing sciences and audiology at Brooklyn College may be able to help. NPR reports that Dr. Shlomo Silman has helped to develop the Ear Popper, an FDA approved sparkplug shaped device which delivers a constant stream of air into the nose as the child swallows, helping to drain the middle ear. A 4 year NIH funded study found that 85% or children experienced improvement in hearing after using the Popper. While the circa $150 pricetag is far cheaper than the current practice of placing small tubes in the patient's eardrums, it is as of now not covered by insurance. And it might not even be just for kids. You may even find it useful after a scuba dive or during that long flight so you can hear that screaming tot sitting behind you all the better.