Frequently Asked Questions

Questions?  Just Ask!

The ENT and Allergy Specialists' team knows how it important it is for you to understand your condition and treatment options. The FAQs below will get you started. To learn more, talk to your specialist. We’re here to help.

Ears

Why does my child have so many ear infections?

What are ear tubes?

What is swimmer’s ear?

Is ear wax normal?

I hear ringing in my ears. Why?

Can ear problems cause dizziness?

What is Ménière's disease?

 

Nose and Sinuses

What are common causes of nasal obstruction?

What is a deviated nasal septum?

What is nasal turbinate enlargement?

What are nasal polyps?

What are the sinuses?

What is sinusitis? How is sinusitis treated?

What causes nosebleeds?

How can a nosebleed be stopped?

 

Throat and Neck

My voice is hoarse. Why?

What is laryngitis?

How is laryngitis treated?

What is tonsillitis?

What are adenoids?

Would my child benefit from a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy?

 

Sleep and Snoring FAQs

What causes snoring?

What can be done to prevent snoring?

What is obstructive sleep apnea?

More information about our snoring solutions.

 

Throat, Speech and Swallowing Disorders

 

Ear FAQs

Young doctor examining baby boy with otoscope

Why does my child have so many ear infections?

When a child has a cold, allergy or upper respiratory infection, bacteria or viruses can collect behind the ear drum, preventing proper drainage. This can cause an inflammation and pain in the ear.  Ear infections, also called otitis media, are usually treated with medications. Sometimes, the infection doesn’t fully respond to the medications, or fluid does not completely drain. These issues can result in persistent infections and hearing loss.

What are ear tubes? 

Ear tubes are tiny cylinders placed through the ear drum that allow air to flow into the middle ear.  This helps drain fluid from the ear, relieving pressure and pain. Ear tubes can also help restore hearing loss caused by fluid, and improve balance and speech problems. Some tubes are designed to fall out of the ear on their own in about six to twelve months. Others are intended to remain in the ear longer and may need to be surgically removed.

What is swimmer’s ear?

Swimmer’s ear is an ear infection of the ear canal skin and often results from exposure to water.  Also called otitis externa, swimmer’s ear occurs when bacteria infects the outer ear and ear canal, causing inflammation and pain.

Is ear wax normal?

Yes, it is! In fact, ear wax, also called cerumen, is a good thing because it helps to clean and lubricate the ear and protect it from bacteria, fungi and insects. There are times, however, when ear wax can be a problem. If there is too much, it can press against the eardrum, block the auditory canal and cause hearing loss.

I hear ringing in my ears. Why?

You may have Tinnitus, a condition that causes you to hear sounds inside the ear that are not really occurring. These “phantom” sounds are often described as whizzing, buzzing, clicking, roaring, hissing, humming or whistling. The most common cause of Tinnitus is long-term exposure to loud noises. But, it can also be a symptom of an underlying condition, such as an ear infection or injury, excess wax, an allergy, certain medications, a problem with the circulatory system or age-related hearing loss.

Can ear problems cause dizziness?

Yes, an inner ear problem can cause you to feel dizzy, lightheaded or confused. Or, it can make you feel as if you’re floating. One of the most common of these feelings is Vertigo, a type of dizziness that creates the sensation of spinning or swaying, even through your body is stationary.

What is Ménière's disease?

Ménière's disease is an inner ear disorder that affects hearing and balance, often causing Vertigo.  Common symptoms are hearing loss that comes and goes, Tinnitus and pressure in the ears.

 

Nose and Sinus FAQs

Woman is having pain in sinus.

What are common causes of nasal obstruction?

Nasal obstruction can result in nasal congestion, nose bleeds, headaches, facial pain, post nasal drip, loud breathing, snoring and sleep apnea. The most common causes of nasal obstruction are a deviated nasal septum, nasal turbinate enlargement and nasal polyps.

Deviated nasal septum

The two sides of the nasal cavity are separated by a combination of cartilage and bone.  This is called the nasal septum. A deviated septum occurs when the septum is bent or misaligned. A deviated septum can be present at birth or caused by a nasal fracture. To relieve symptoms, your doctor may recommend a septoplasty, a surgery usually performed on an outpatient basis. A septoplasty involves making incisions within the nasal cavity to remove the bone and cartilage causing the obstruction.

Nasal turbinate enlargement

The nasal turbinates are structures lining the side walls of the nasal cavity. They help warm and moisturize air that moves through the nose. As they do so, the turbinates react by swelling and enlarging. This swelling can also occur as a reaction to irritants and allergens. Excessive enlargement of the turbinates can cause nasal obstruction. Sometimes nasal sprays can be used to reduce the swelling. When sprays don’t provide relief, the turbinates can be surgically reduced, usually through an in-office procedure.

Nasal polyps 

Nasal obstruction can often be caused by nasal polyps -- small, non-cancerous inflammatory tissue that can grow in the nasal cavity and sinuses. When a polyp blocks the sinus drainage ducts, chronic sinus disease can result. Nasal polyps can often be controlled with steroid sprays, but they sometimes need to be removed through endoscopic surgery. Polyps occur more frequently in persons with allergies and/or asthma, and have been found to be related to a condition named Samter’s syndrome. Individuals with Samter’s syndrome have a combination of bronchial asthma, nasal polyps and severe allergic reactions to aspirin.

What are the sinuses?

The sinuses are air-filled spaces inside the bone around your nose. They are located in four areas: under the eyes, within the hard part of the forehead, between the nose and eyes, and under the pituitary gland. The sinuses are connected to the nasal passages by small tubes or channels.  Generally, the sinuses help clean the air breathed through the nose. There are other theories about the role of the sinuses, including:

  • Decreasing the weight of the skull
  • Making the voice more resonant
  • Creating a buffer against blows to the facial area
  • Insulating and protecting sensitive structures in the nasal cavity, such as dental roots
  • Humidifying and heating inhaled air

What is sinusitis?  How is it treated?

When the sinus drainage pathways are inflamed or obstructed, a sinus infection can occur, causing facial pain and pressure, congestion, fatigue, fever and yellow or green nasal discharge.  Your doctor may prescribe nasal decongestants and antibiotics. If sinus infections happen frequently, endoscopic sinus surgery may be recommended to clear blockages that contribute to poor nasal drainage.

What causes nosebleeds?

The most common cause of a nose bleed is picking at the delicate nasal membranes.  When air is especially dry, this can happen more often, as the membranes themselves dry out and become more fragile. Other causes of nosebleeds include allergies and infections, fractures of the nose, and tumors.

How can a nosebleed be stopped?

Most nosebleeds can be stopped by following these steps:

  • Sit upright and lean forward so that you will not swallow blood.
  • Pinch the soft parts of the nose together between your thumb and index finger to close the nostrils. Breathe through your mouth. Continue holding the nostrils closed for 5 – 10 minutes.
  • Soak a cotton ball with a decongestant nasal spray like Afrin, Neo-Synephrine or DuraVent.  Place the cotton ball in the nostril, press the nostrils closed and hold for about 5 minutes.
  • Try applying ice to the nose and cheek areas.

If your symptoms worsen or bleeding doesn’t stop, call your doctor.

 

Throat and Neck FAQs

GP examining young woman, who has problems with throat

My voice is hoarse.  Why?

A hoarse voice is usually due to irritation of the larynx.  Common causes of irritation are coughing due to a respiratory infection; Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease (GERD) which exposes the larynx to stomach acid; and mucous draining from the nasal cavities. More serious causes of hoarseness or a change in the voice include thyroid or vocal cord problems, or tumors of the larynx. If hoarseness lasts more than four-to-six weeks, a doctor should be consulted.

What is laryngitis?

Laryngitis is an inflammation of the vocal cords that can be caused by overuse, irritation, excessive coughing, smoking, alcohol consumption, or infection from a virus, bacteria or fungus.   In addition to hoarseness, symptoms of laryngitis can include dry, sore throat, coughing, difficulty swallowing, fever, swollen lymph glands, and cold/flu like symptoms.

How is laryngitis treated?

Treatment of laryngitis differs depending on the cause, but is sometimes treated with antibiotics or other medication. It is also helpful to drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol, caffeine and other substances that can dehydrate the body, use a home humidifier, and avoid smoking.

What is tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Symptoms can include a severe sore throat, difficulty swallowing, headache, fever and chills. The tonsils themselves may appear red and swollen and can have white patches on them. Treatment can include pain management medications or antibiotics if the infection is bacterial. Gargling with a solution of warm water and salt can help relieve pain and reduce swelling.

What are adenoids?

The adenoids are a mass of lymphoid tissue located in the roof of the mouth, behind the soft palate where the nose connects to the throat. As part of the immune system, the adenoids produce white blood cells that help fight infections .Frequent throat infections can cause the adenoids to become enlarged, blocking airflow so that breathing through the nose becomes more difficult. They can also cause ear infections, snoring, sleep apnea, and hearing or speech problems.

Would my child benefit from a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy?

As a general guideline, a tonsillectomy is recommended in patients with seven or more tonsil infections in one year, five infections a year for two years, or three infections for three or more years. Many doctors recommend removing the adenoids at the same time that a tonsillectomy is performed. Removal of the tonsils and adenoids is also recommended for patients experiencing snoring with associated sleep apnea.

 

Sleep FAQs

Middle Aged Couple Asleep In Bed Together

What causes snoring?

Snoring is generally caused by a narrowing of the airway during sleep. This narrowing can result from extra tissue in the throat resulting from obesity, pregnancy or genetics, or from nasal congestion or nasal deformities. Snoring can also be the result of tongue or throat muscles that are too relaxed as a result of alcohol, muscle relaxants and other medications. Long-term smoking and the normal aging process can also relax these muscles.

What are some snoring solutions?

For mild snoring, you might try losing weight, sleeping on your side rather than your back, avoiding alcohol and sedatives.  If excessive tissue in the airway is the problem, your doctor may recommend surgery to reduce the amount of tissue. This procedure can be done in the doctor’s office using local anesthesia.

What is obstructive sleep apnea?

Snoring, restless sleep and daytime fatigue could all be symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where breathing stops for ten seconds or more, repeatedly throughout the night.   Obstructive sleep apnea is usually caused when tissue at the back of the throat collapses, narrowing the airway.  Treatment for sleep apnea may include the use of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), oral appliance therapy, surgery, weight management or lifestyle changes.

 

Throat, Speech and Swallowing Disorders

Conditions of the throat can range from a simple sore throat, to conditions that impact speaking, swallowing and breathing, to serious issues like cancer. If you are experiencing a chronic cough, speech and/or swallowing problems, a sore throat that doesn’t go away, hoarseness, problems with your voice or other issues, see your ENT specialist for a diagnosis, symptom relief and treatment recommendations.

Throat, Speech and Swallowing Disorders

It’s hard to ignore a problem with the throat. Eating, swallowing, sleep and speaking can all be affected, impacting basic, everyday functions and quality of life. Our physicians can evaluate your symptoms, diagnose underlying conditions, offer treatments, coordinate treatment with other specialists, and help prevent long-term complications.

Chronic Cough

An occasional cough is normal, and healthy for the body, as it clears irritants and secretions from the throat and lungs.  But a cough that lasts eight weeks or longer in an adult, or four weeks in a child, could be a symptom of an underlying condition. The same is true of a severe cough that causes vomiting, lightheadedness or pain. A chronic cough could be caused by postal nasal drip, asthma, sinus or allergy problems, digestive issue like heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or reactions to medications. Depending on the diagnosis, your physician may recommend allergy or asthma medications, antibiotics or cough suppressants. For GERD-related coughs, acid blockers, life style changes or surgery may be recommended.

Hoarseness

Sometimes when you have a dry or scratchy throat, you may also experience a raspy or strained voice, commonly described as hoarseness. Usually, hoarseness is caused by a swelling of the vocal folds which produce the sounds from the voice box, also known as the larynx. The result is laryngitis and changes in the voice. Hoarseness can also be caused by a cold or flu, vocal cord lesions, a vocal hemorrhage, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) disease, smoking, neurological disorders, allergies, thyroid problems, injuries and other factors. If hoarseness lasts more than two weeks, it’s best to consult a doctor for an evaluation. Recommendations may range from symptom management to voice therapy, surgery or a combination of treatments.

Speech Disorders

Conditions related to the ears, mouth, tongue and throat can result in problems with speech.  These can include stuttering, speech impediments, difficulty forming words, slurred speech and fluency disorders that make talking and communicating difficult. The best first step in diagnosing the underlying cause of a speech disorder is to be evaluated by your ear, nose and throat specialist. Depending on the findings, your specialist may suggest treatment options, or refer you to a speech-language pathologist, speech therapist or other medical specialist. 

Voice Disorders

A voice disorder differs from a speech disorder in both the way it presents itself and the causes.  Voice disorders are caused by a problem with the vocal cords, voice box or larynx. Symptoms include a change in the voice quality which can sound like the voice is breaking, strained, higher pitched, raspy or hoarse. Common causes of a voice disorder include swelling of the vocal chords, also called laryngitis, or spasmodic dysphonia, a nerve problem that causes the vocal cords to spasm. The vocal cord nerves can also be affected by an injury, stroke or cancer, resulting in vocal cord paralysis. Treatment of voice disorders will depend on the exact diagnosis.  Your specialists may recommend a coordinated treatment plan including doctors and therapists focused on your specific issues.

Vocal Cord Paralysis

When the nerve impulses to the voice box are interrupted, one or both of the vocal cord muscles can become partially or fully paralyzed. This can affect the ability to speak and in some cases, cause difficulty with breathing.  Vocal cord paralysis can be caused by a number of factors, including a viral infection, cancer, stroke or an injury.  Symptoms are wide ranging, but can include changes in the voice and ability to speak, noisy breathing, coughing when eating or drinking, and a feeling of needing to clear the throat. Depending on the cause and your symptoms, treatment for vocal cord paralysis may include surgery, medications and/or speech therapy.

Aspiration

Pulmonary aspiration occurs when a foreign object is breathed into the lungs, usually food, liquids or stomach contents. It can happen when a person has difficulty swallowing or is in a reduced state of awareness, as can happen with those who are comatose, under anesthesia, or inebriated.

Aspiration can also be related to esophageal disorders. The danger with aspiration is that matter lodged in the lungs can cause a bacterial infection, leading to pneumonia. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, coughing up mucus, hoarseness, fever or a bluish tint to the skin caused by lack of oxygen. Aspiration pneumonia is generally treated with antibiotics.  Sometimes, an individual may be evaluated by a speech therapist for aspiration potential, and dietary changes may be recommended, such as thickened liquids and soft foods.