Otolaryngology is the medical specialty that deals with the ears, nose, and throat.
Since specialists are trained in both medicine and surgery, it is also known as otolaryngology-head and neck surgery.
An otolaryngologist is also called an ENT, or an ear, nose, and throat doctor.
Doctors first became aware that the head and neck contained an intricate network of interconnected systems in the 19th century.
As a result, doctors developed techniques and tools for examining and treating problems of the head and neck, forming a medical specialty.
This medical specialty is the oldest in the United States, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology.
Unlike many other doctors, otolaryngologists can perform many types of surgery on the delicate and complex tissues of the head and neck.
There are three major areas of the ear: the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear.
The outer ear consists of the part we can see (pinna) and the ear canal.
An ear’s pinna (PIN-uh) collects sound waves from the environment and directs them into the ear canal.
Vibrations are amplified by the eardrum and three small bones of the middle ear before they reach the inner ear.
Vibrations pass through fluid inside a snail-shaped structure in the inner ear (cochlea).
The cochlea has thousands of tiny hairs that help translate sound vibrations into electrical signals that are sent to your brain.
The brain converts these signals into sound.
Hearing loss can occur when any part of the auditory (hearing) system isn’t working properly.
Noise, aging, disease, and heredity all contribute to hearing loss.
Hearing loss may make it difficult for people to have meaningful conversations with their friends and family.
They may also have difficulty understanding a doctor’s advice, responding to warnings, and hearing doorbells and alarms.
Approximately one out of three people between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 are hard of hearing.
However, some people may not want to admit they have difficulty hearing.
People who cannot hear well may become depressed, or they may withdraw from others because of their frustration or embarrassment.
Often, older people who don’t hear well are mistaken for being confused, unresponsive, or uncooperative.
If ignored or untreated, hearing problems can get worse.
You should see your doctor if you are experiencing hearing problems.
There are many treatment options available, including hearing aids, special training, medications, and surgery.
There are many types of hearing loss.
It can range from a mild loss, in which a person is missing certain high-pitched sounds, such as the voice of a child or woman, to a complete loss of hearing.
Suddenly losing one’s hearing, or deafness, is called sudden sensorineural hearing loss.
The symptoms may occur all at once or gradually over three days.
Medical attention should be sought immediately.
Visit a doctor right away if you or someone you know experiences sudden sensorineural hearing loss.
As a person gets older, they begin to experience gradual hearing loss, or presbycusis.
The condition seems to be hereditary and may be related to changes in the inner ear or auditory nerve.
People with presbycusis may find it difficult to tolerate loud sounds or to hear what others are saying.
Hearing loss associated with aging usually affects both ears equally.
The loss is gradual, so an individual with presbycusis might not be aware that some of his or her hearing has been lost.
Older people are also prone to tinnitus.
It is usually described as ringing in the ears, but can also sound like roaring, clicking, hissing, or buzzing.
It may come and go throughout the day.
The sound may be heard in one ear or both, and it may be loud or soft. In older adults, tinnitus is sometimes the first sign of hearing loss.
Hearing loss is not the only cause of tinnitus.
It can also be caused by other health issues, such as high blood pressure, allergies, or medications.
Tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease.
Tinnitus can be caused by anything as simple as earwax blocking the ear canal, but it can also be caused by a variety of health conditions.
One of the most common causes of hearing loss is loud noise.
Lawn mowers, snow blowers, and loud music can damage the inner ear, resulting in permanent hearing loss.
Tinnitus can also be caused by loud noise.
The majority of loud noise-related hearing loss can be prevented.
You can protect your ears by turning down the volume of your stereo, television, or headphones, or by wearing earplugs or other ear protection.
A punctured eardrum can also lead to hearing loss.
Infections, pressure, and objects put in the ear, such as cotton-tipped swabs, can cause damage to the eardrum.
Consult your doctor if you have pain or fluid draining from your ear.
Hearing loss can be caused by health conditions common to older people, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
Viruses and bacteria (including otitis media), heart conditions, strokes, brain injuries, and tumors can also affect your hearing.
Certain medications can also cause hearing loss.
These medications, known as “ototoxics”, damage the inner ear.
Some ototoxic drugs are used to treat serious infections, cancer, and heart disease.
Many antibiotics are ototoxic as well.
Even aspirin can cause problems in some cases.
Speak to your doctor if you experience a problem after taking medication.
Hereditary factors can also contribute to hearing loss.
Some forms of inherited hearing loss do not manifest themselves at birth.
Others may appear later in life.
A hereditary disease known as otosclerosis, for example, is characterized by an abnormal growth of bone within the ear.
If your sinuses remain inflamed and swollen for three months or longer, you have chronic sinusitis.
This common condition interferes with the normal drainage of mucus, causing your nose to be stuffy.
It may be difficult to breathe through your nose, and the area around your eyes may feel swollen or tender.
Chronic sinusitis can be caused by infections, growths in the sinuses (nasal polyps), or swelling of the sinus lining.
A blocked or stuffy nose can cause difficulty breathing, as well as pain or swelling around your eyes, cheeks, nose, or forehead.
The signs and symptoms of chronic sinusitis and acute sinusitis are similar.
Acute sinusitis is, however, a temporary infection of the sinuses often caused by a cold.
Chronic sinusitis lasts at least 12 weeks, but you may suffer several episodes of acute sinusitis before developing chronic sinusitis.
Chronic sinusitis doesn’t usually cause fever, but acute sinusitis might.
Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles supporting the soft tissues in your throat, such as your tongue and soft palate, relax temporarily.
Your airways narrow or close when these muscles relax, and you are temporarily unable to breathe.
Sleep apnea can occur in several forms, but the most common is obstructive sleep apnea.
Snoring is one of the signs of obstructive sleep apnea.
The sudden drops in blood oxygen level that occur during obstructive sleep apnea increase blood pressure and put stress on the cardiovascular system.
People with obstructive sleep apnea often develop high blood pressure (hypertension), which can increase their risk of heart disease.
The greater the severity of sleep apnea, the greater the risk of coronary artery disease, heart attacks, heart failure and strokes.
By causing abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), sleep apnea lowers blood pressure.
These repeated multiple episodes of arrhythmia could lead to sudden death if there is underlying heart disease.
Patients with obstructive sleep apnea can receive treatment.
Sleeping with a device that uses positive pressure to open your airway is one treatment option.
You can also use a mouthpiece to propel your lower jaw forward while you sleep.
Surgical procedures are also an option sometimes.
Snoring does not necessarily mean something serious, and not everyone who snores has obstructive sleep apnea.
Speak to your doctor if you snore loudly, especially if your snoring is interrupted by periods of silence.
With obstructive sleep apnea, snoring usually worsens when you sleep on your back, and it slightly improves when you sleep on your side.
Consult your doctor if you are chronically fatigued, sleepy and irritable.
Other disorders, such as narcolepsy, may cause excessive daytime sleepiness.
Tonsillitis is an inflammation of the tonsils, two oval-shaped pads of tissue located on each side of the throat.
Tonsillitis is characterized by swollen tonsils, sore throats, difficulty swallowing, and tender lymph nodes on the sides of the neck.
Tonsillitis is usually caused by an infection with a virus, but it can also be caused by bacterial infections.
Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus), the bacterium responsible for strep throat, is the most common cause of tonsillitis.
Tonsillitis can also be caused by other strains of strep and other bacteria.
Tonsillitis treatment depends on its underlying cause, so it’s important to get an accurate and prompt diagnosis.
Surgical removal of tonsils, once a common procedure to treat tonsillitis, is usually only performed when tonsillitis occurs frequently, doesn’t respond to other treatments or causes serious complications.
An ear infection (sometimes called acute otitis media) is an infection of the middle ear, the air-filled space behind the eardrum where the tiny vibrating bones of the ear are found.
Children are more likely to get ear infections than adults.
During an ear infection, the narrow tubes that run from the middle ear to high in the back of the throat (eustachian tubes) may swell and become blocked.
Middle-ear mucus can build up as a result.
Ear infections can result from this mucus becoming infected.
Ear infections usually clear up on their own, so management of pain and monitoring the situation may be the first steps in treatment.
Antibiotics may be required to clear the infection.
It is common for some people to have multiple ear infections.
Hearing problems and other serious complications can result.
Otolaryngologists attend four years of medical school.
Then they receive at least five years of specialized training.
Finally, they must pass an exam in order to become certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology.
Some physicians also obtain 1 or 2 years of training in a subspecialty, such as:
These doctors treat environmental allergies (such as pollen or pet dander) with medications or shots called immunology.
Additionally, they can help you determine whether you have food allergies.
They perform cosmetic surgery such as face lifts and nose jobs.
People who were born with issues or who have had their looks altered by accident may also benefit from cosmetic surgery.
These specialists can help you if you have a tumor in your nose, sinuses, mouth, throat, voice box, or upper esophagus.
These doctors specialize in diseases and injuries related to your voice box (larynx) and vocal cords.
Their services include diagnosis and treatment of swallowing problems as well.
These specialists can help you if you have any ear issues.
They treat conditions such as infections, hearing loss, dizziness, and tinnitus.
There is a chance that your child cannot explain what’s bothering them to their doctor.
ENTs who specialize in pediatrics are specially trained to treat children, and their exam rooms and equipment are designed to make kids feel at ease.
Allergies, ear infections, tonsillitis, and asthma are among the most common problems.
Pediatric ENTs also treat children with birth defects of the head and neck.
Additionally, they can determine if your child has a speech or language problem.
Rhinologists focus on your nose and sinuses.
Their services include treating sinusitis, nose bleeds, loss of smell, stuffy noses, and unusual growths.
Some ENTs specialize in breathing problems related to sleep, such as snoring and sleep apnea.
If you are having trouble breathing at times during the night, your doctor may order a sleep study.
Otolaryngologists-head and neck surgeons specialize in disorders of the head and neck, especially those related to the ears, nose and throat.
“Oto-rhino-laryngology” comes from the Greek words “oto” for ear, “rhino” for nose, and “laryn” for throat.
A variety of factors can lead to hearing loss, which affects people of all ages.
Sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss constitute the three basic types of hearing loss.
Over a quarter of people with hearing loss are affected by noise, the most common cause of acquired hearing loss.
Reduce your exposure to loud noise or wear suitable protection, such as ear muffs or ear plugs, to protect your hearing.
Chronic sinusitis can be caused by infections, growths in the sinuses (nasal polyps), or swelling of the sinus lining.
Blockage or congestion of the nose causes difficulty breathing through the nose, as well as pain and swelling around the eyes, cheeks, nose, or forehead.
The infection can spread to vital parts of your body, including the bones, spinal fluid, and the brain, if chronic sinusitis is not treated.
Meningitis and brain abscesses are life-threatening complications that require immediate emergency surgery.
Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to send proper signals to the muscles that control your breathing.
It differs from obstructive sleep apnea, when you can’t breathe normally due to blockage in the upper airway.
Obstructive sleep apnea is more common than central sleep apnea.
CPAP and oral appliances are effective, but they don’t cure sleep apnea.
Losing weight or having surgery to remove excess tissue from the palate or throat is the only way to get rid of the condition permanently.
While a person with sleep apnea may not necessarily die while sleeping, the risk of death increases significantly if sleep apnea is not treated.
The reason people with sleep apnea don’t usually die in their sleep is because when the brain detects that it does not have enough oxygen, the body wakes up.
Obesity and excess weight are the most common causes of obstructive sleep apnea in adults, which affects the soft tissues in the mouth and throat.
When the muscles of the throat and tongue are relaxed during sleep, this soft tissue can block the airway.
Adults and grown children can still get ear infections, but they are less common.
In most cases, ear infections resolve on their own and do not require medical attention.
Even without treatment, middle ear infections often disappear on their own within 2 or 3 days.
It is also possible for an infection to last longer (with fluid remaining in the middle ear for 6 weeks or more), even after antibiotic treatment.