A team led by Professor Tan Kok Kiong from the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, together with Dr Lynne Lim, an Adjunct Associate Professor with the Department of Otolaryngology at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and Senior Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) Consultant at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, has developed CLiKX – a palm-size device for the treatment of Otitis Media with Effusion (OME), or ‘glue ear’, which is the leading cause of hearing loss among children worldwide. The device, which is sensor-guided and easy to use, could significantly improve current surgical treatment of OME.
Patients with OME have their middle ear filled with fluid instead of air. If left untreated, patients may suffer hearing impairment, middle ear bone erosion or tumour, and brain infection. The condition affects 709 millon people annually across the globe, with about 90 per cent being children. In Singapore, an estimated 84,000 children suffer from ‘glue ear’ yearly. OME has shown to cause delays in the speech, language and academic abilities of young children.
“The first line therapy for OME is usually the prescription of antibiotics. But sometimes, the antibiotics may not be effective against OME. For patients with three or more episodes of OME within a year, 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. A grommet is a very small tube that is inserted onto the patient’s ear drum during surgery to help drain away fluid in the middle ear. Each procedure takes about 30 minutes to complete,” explained Dr Lim.