• Posted on: Feb 11 2012
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Internet Ads are Dangerous

The above link will take you to a website advocating the use of a chin strap to stop snoring. A chin strap like the one shown below, is designed simply to keep the mouth closed during the night.

They were originally used to keep the mouth closed in an effort to decrease the loudness of snoring. While snoring was rarely fixed by these devices, the volume of snoring is frequently louder when the mouth is open. Therefore, wearing a chin strap is beneficial in some cases to reduce the volume of the snoring sound, known to physicians as stertor.

The ad above was found on While I’m sure that there is no legal obligation for MSNBC to determine the scientific accuracy of their advertisers, the fact that these ads can exist on a reasonably reputable site provides a semblance of legitamcy to visitors and I think that’s where the danger lies.

The ad spends a tremendous amount of time discussing obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)–a potentially dangerous medical condition. Snoring is one potential symptom of OSA and treatments for snoring often do not treat OSA allowing you to feel like you have had some therapy when, in fact, the dangerous underlying condition of OSA persists. One well done study has shown that the chances of having clinically significant OSA increases substantially (to as high as 75%) in patients who have disruptive snoring which is snoring that wakes partners from sleep. The chinstrap advertisement never specifically claims to treat OSA, only snoring, but it tries to make the impression that OSA is also treated. It also tries to make the single most effective treatment for OSA (CPAP) sound like an awful and expensive alternative.

(I make money by doing surgery, but I will be the first to say that CPAP is the single most effective low-risk treatment for OSA, bar none and without exception. It is true that some people can’t or won’t tolerate it, but it is the best option for anyone who can or will use it.)

The ad states this toward the end, “If you want to stop snoring once and for all, without expensive CPAP devices or other intrusive devices, this may be the solution you’ve been waiting for.” Again, it says it will stop snoring so you don’t have to use CPAP, but CPAP is not a typical treatment for snoring, but rather for OSA. It’s blurring the lines and my concern is that people will buy the chinstrap thinking they are treating OSA.

The ONLY way to know if your OSA is improved with a strap like this is to have a sleep study performed while wearing it. I performed a search of Medline which is the online repository for nearly every legitimate medical study in the last several decades. There is not one article documenting the efficacy of a chinstrap for OSA. The study alluded to in this ad was not a study, rather a case report which reports the findings on one patient. Drawing conclusions based on the result of one person is ridiculous, irresponsible, and potentially dangerous. We’ve all heard about those who went to some shahman and got an alternative therapy for a cancer and was miraculously cured, but unfortunately, these stories rarely translate to others.

You can see the advertised “study” by clicking here, but don’t be fooled by all the scientific numbers. It’s still a single case report done on a skinny man.

My last concern is that this strap costs $120. You can make one for about $5 that’s no less effective. But if you do opt for a chin strap option, especially if you have OSA, don’t rely on your symptoms to tell you if it’s working, get a sleep study and prove it.

If you get it for snoring knowing that you don’t have OSA and it works to stop the snoring, then I and your sleep partners will be happy and supportive of you.

–Richard D. Thrasher III, MD


Posted in: Nose, Throat

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