BOSTON (CBS) – Fifteen-percent of men and five-percent of women suffer from sleep apnea.
Treatment at night with a special machine is crucial but can be a real nuisance. But a local company has developed a new device that could be life-changing for patients.
For years, Kristen Balderston’s husband and kids told her that she snored.
“I didn’t believe them,” she admits, but a sleep study told her otherwise. “I not only had sleep apnea,” says Kristen, “I had serious sleep apnea.”
With sleep apnea, there’s a blockage in the back of the throat causing snoring and choking throughout the night. And over time, that can have serious consequences, like high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, diabetes, and excessive daytime sleepiness.
To prevent that, patients have to wear a CPAP machine that blows air into the back of the throat stenting it open. While these machines work, they can be really annoying and many people stop using them.
“It’s just very clumsy,” says Kristen, “So if you want to sleep on our side you’ve got this tubing that gets in the way.”
So a Burlington company, called Airing, developed a device with no cords and no tubing.
It’s battery-operated and disposable and outfitted with hundreds of “micro-blowers.”
“While they’re very, very small, there are a lot of them,” says Stephen Marsh, the president and co-founder of Airing. “When they operate repeatedly many thousand times a second, it blows enough air to treat sleep apnea.”
Dr. Jeffrey Bass is a Chestnut Hill primary care physician and serves on Airing’s medical advisory board.
“This would be an absolute breakthrough in the treatment of sleep apnea,” says Dr. Bass. “Patients would find it comfortable and would be able to use it through the night and get the full benefit and travel readily with it. This would be an absolute liberation from the current devices that are out there,” adds Dr. Bass.
Airing is using a crowdfunding site called Indiegogo to raise money to develop the prototype. So far they have raised more than $725,000 but they could still use more.
“The invention happened, that ‘ah-ha’ moment. Now we just have to execute and to execute we need resources. And I really like the idea of getting it from the people who will benefit from it directly,” says Marsh.
Like Kristen, who herself made a donation.
When she saw the device for the first time she said, “That’s amazing. That would make life so much more livable.”
To make a donation, go to indiegogo.com