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Pacifier Use May Increase Risk of Ear Infections

September 5, 2000 MSNBC reports that, "Infants who use pacifiers continuously after six months of age are at higher risk of ear infections, according to researchers." These finding come from the results of a study done on more than 400 Finnish children at the University of Oulu. The researchers estimate that between 75 percent and 85 percent of children in Western countries habitually use pacifiers.

One possible reason given by the researchers for the link between pacifiers and ear infections was that the sucking on a pacifier may upset the air pressure in the ear therefore blocking proper drainage. "It is reasonable to assume that the effect may lie in an alteration in the pressure equilibrium between the middle ear cavity and the nasopharynx, which apparently impairs the functioning of the Eustachian tube,"

The Eustachian tube is the passage that connects the back of the nose and the middle ear. It assists hearing and acts as a drain for the middle ear by opening when needed to regulate air pressure. If the Eustachian tube gets blocked it may prevent proper drainage and result in infections. The only recommendations given to the parents in the article by the researchers were to restrict pacifier use to the moments when older babies are falling asleep.