Migraines are throbbing headaches often associated with light or sound sensitivity and nausea. They can be a severely debilitating, with an estimated 13% of US adults experiencing them and 2-3 million of whom are classified as chronic sufferers.
Although the causes of migraines are not completely understood, many sufferers report increased incidence correlating with weather changes. With relief strategies ranging from rest in the dark, to massage techniques, and to drugs with variable efficacies, sufferers might be interested to learn of an interesting preventative method that reports decreases in weather-related migraines.
We recently had a chance to chat with Grant O’Connell, Director of Marketing and Communications at Cirrus Healthcare, a Cold Spring Harbor, New York company, about their MigraineX earplug, how it helps mitigate migraine symptoms, and the company’s other earplug products.
Mohammad Saleh, Medgadget: Tell us about Cirrus Healthcare’s mission and how you came to be a part of it.
Grant O’Connell, Cirrus Healthcare: Cirrus Healthcare Products is a worldwide leader in earplug manufacturing from Earplanes, our flagship product, which was invented over 20 years ago by my father, to today with MigraineX, a slight modification on that pressure regulating filter. As I said my father invented Earplanes 20 plus years ago, so it is a family business. There are a few of us that I see and talk to on a day-to-day basis. We’re an earplugs company that’s family owned, and I’ve been with the company around five years, now.
Medgadget: What are the MigraineX earplugs and how do they work? What’s the science behind them?
O’Connell: MigraineX is a pressure-regulating earplug specifically designed to gradualize the pressure as it enters the middle ear. It’s a slight adaptation from our Earplanes product, which I previously mentioned, and it’s better calibrated for pressure changes at a ground level, so those that affect weather-related migraines. It’s a preventative, proactive, all-natural solution that’s available OTC for $12 MSRP. It’s a reusable earplug, and we have a free app that accompanies it that lets you know the forecast seven days ahead of potentially migraine-triggering weather systems that are coming.
Medgadget: How does the weather affect migraine incidence?
O’Connell: Well, incoming pressure systems are known to be triggers. WebMD states that 73% of migraines are attributed to weather changes or pressure changes.
Medgadget: Is the typical trigger of the migraine the change in pressure or a particularly high/low pressure?
O’Connell: That’s the tricky thing with migraines, because there’s so many different triggers and everybody is different. I can’t answer that question one way or the other but our app is designed to calculate change in pressure. We’re sitting here in 30.0 inches mercury pressure. If that pressure goes up to 32 or even 30.7 tomorrow that could be potentially triggering, depending on the person. That’s why we have a threshold feature for our app users.
Medgadget: How does the new MigraineX app help mitigate that?
O’Connell: Once you’ve downloaded our free app, you can set your pressure threshold, the threshold at which you usually are triggered into a migraine attack. That’s anywhere from a very negligible amount to a large amount if you’re more prone to bigger shifts. Based on this threshold, you get a push notification on your phone, up to seven days in advance, notifying you of this incoming weather system so that you know ahead of time that a migraine attack might be coming up.
The push notification system is something that really separates us because there are tens of hundreds of weather apps. But the push notifications allow the users to not have to open the app constantly, so they don’t have to interrupt their daily lives.
Medgadget: Are there any exciting upcoming projects/products that Cirrus is currently working on?
O’Connell: Well the most exciting venture that we just endeavored on is version 2 of the app. We tried to increase reliability. We really simplified the presentation and usability and we made a more accurate forecasting system. Now it’s not just day-by-day change like the first version, but the cumulative hourly change. So if there’s a shift of 0.2 inches mercury within the day and it settles down back within that same day, say over a six-hour period, that wouldn’t show up in the day-to-day forecast, but it would show up on our app. So essentially, we created a new system of reporting around these barometric shifts. There aren’t necessarily any direct competitor apps doing this. There are apps with a similar feature built-in, while our app at this point is a one-trick pony. The push notification is the differentiator for our app, because we want potential sufferers to know about conditions ahead of time. Let’s say you’re traveling to Cleveland next week. Within the app, a new feature in version 2, is a customizable location so you could check the upcoming weather in Cleveland and see that there’s a lot of pressure shifts so you’ll know to pack your MigraineX.
Medgadget: Does Cirrus Healthcare plan to integrate any tech or circuitry into any of your upcoming earplug products?
O’Connell: Within the earplugs, not right now. We’re just focused on the free app on Android and Apple – really getting that system down since that’s a new endeavor for us. But, we are potentially working towards really calibrating the app to work on an Android or Apple watch.
Medgadget: How can migraine sufferers learn more about your products?
O’Connell: Our website is MigraineX.net and we are available on Amazon. Our products are also available on the sites of Target and Walmart, and we are also in talks to be in CVS in the ear-care aisle very soon.
Medgadget: I recall reading that your product is customer tested. Could you expand on that?
O’Connell: Over the course of the product’s lifetime, we’ve gotten testimonials from people calling us or emailing us directly, or even posting online reviews, of this product working and changing their day-to-day lives. It’s really humbling to receive the feedback and know that this $12 earplug and free app made this big of a change in allowing these migraine sufferers pursue their hobbies and their daily activities uninterrupted by the migraines that previously debilitated them. That’s where the consumer-tested slogan comes from, and if the earplugs don’t work, we offer a money-back guarantee, no questions. We believe in our products and our satisfaction guarantee applies to the whole range of them, not just for the MigraineX.
Medgadget: Are these earplugs washable? What’s their lifetime?
O’Connell: It’s not necessarily washable. We recommend that you use the earplugs until they’re hygienic unfit. That usually amounts to a handful of times.
Medgadget: Tell us about Cirrus Healthcare’s other products and how their designs differ from MigraineX.
O’Connell: MigraineX and Earplanes are the most closely-related because the difference is the filter, which is more sensitive in the MigraineX, whereas the Earplanes plug has a filter better calibrated for 30,000 foot changes in altitude as you’re ascending and descending in an airplane.
Other products we create are our Bio-ears, which is a silicone earplug that’s antimicrobial. We also have more run-of-the-mill foam earplugs, like Extreme Ears, and Clear Ears, which is an alcohol-free earplug that absorbs the water within someone’s ear after swimming, which causes most of problems with people with swimmer’s ear. We really try to focus on natural solutions and ones that are very cost effective.
Medgadget: Is the Earplanes product for everyone or is it specifically for people who suffer from migraines?
O’Connell: It’s for everyone. The idea behind that is for people who experience ear or head pain as they take off or descend during travel on an airplane. It slows that shift in pressure that affects your head. We make it, as we do for MigraineX, in children and adult sizes.
Medgadget: Where do you see the healthcare market heading over the next 10 years?
O’Connell: Well we’re excited about is furthering the integration of technology into the healthcare world. I’ve seen a few apps pop up about preventative measures and a greater awareness of natural solutions as well. So, it’s not just technology, and it’s not just more awareness of what we’re putting into our body, but the partnership of both is really exciting. Consumers are becoming more educated about everything, so it puts the onus on us and healthcare professionals to do better.