However, a promising new treatment called eustachian tube balloon dilation has been described in March 2011 to address eustachian tube dysfunction at the source surgically rather than indirectly with tube placement across the eardrum. In essence, a balloon is inserted into the eustachian tube and than inflated thereby opening it up (the balloon is "popping" the ear for you). The balloon is than deflated and removed.
Dr. Dennis Poe in Boston, MA is the researcher who first described this technique in March 2011 and at this time, is not offered in many centers. Why? Mainly because of the cost of the balloon itself which is not covered by insurance. The material cost of the balloon is around $2000 or more. Compare this to the cost of a tube which is around $30 or less.
Read more about why this technique is offered in so few places and why it is slow to catch on with ENTs in general.
Balloon Dilation of the Cartilaginous Eustachian Tube. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg April 2011 vol. 144 no. 4 563-569
Balloon catheter dilatation of eustachian tube: a preliminary study. Otol Neurotol. 2012 Dec;33(9):1549-52. doi: 10.1097/MAO.0b013e31826a50c3.
Balloon Dilation of the Cartilaginous Portion of the Eustachian Tube. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2014 Apr 4;151(1):125-130. [Epub ahead of print]
Here are some devices that have helped some people to pop their ears: