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New medical research tackles major cause of childhood deafness

Published: 
16 May 2003

Researchers at the University of Southampton are undertaking a pioneering study to evaluate and trial a new treatment for the commonest cause of childhood deafness known as 'glue-ear'.

The study is a four-year randomised controlled trial and the first substantive trial of a medical treatment for glue-ear or Otitis Media with Effusion to be done in primary care.

Dr Ian Williamson of the Primary Medical Care group at the University's School of Medicine is leading the research and was awarded £573,126 for the work being done in collaboration with the Medical Research Council General Practice Research Framework.

Glue ear or fluid behind the ear drum is a major problem, affecting 85% of children under the age of 10. Most grow out of the condition, although many children require antibiotics or surgery in more serious cases.

Dr Ian Williamson's work is based on evidence linking the adenoids, which are situated in the nose, to the symptoms of glue ear. The trial uses 'topical nasal steroid preparations' designed to act on the adenoids and the eustachian tubes, shrinking them down and preventing the swelling and inflammation that is thought to be associated with glue ear.

Dr Williamson said: "Glue ear is very difficult to diagnose and detect and treatments in primary care are largely ineffective or of uncertain value. This trial aims to reduce the severity and duration of the glue ear episodes enough to produce significant quality of life gains for affected children and their families."

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The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University, which celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2002, has 20,000 students and over 4,500 staff and plays an important role in the City of Southampton. Its annual turnover is in the region of £235 million.

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