Otolaryngology is the official name for the field of medicine that addresses the health problems associated with the ears, nose, and throat. Thankfully for patients, the specialty is usually called “ear, nose, and throat” or ENT. ENT is one of the medical specialties that Northwest Specialty Hospital offers patients in the Inland Northwest.
The Expertise of Otolaryngologists
Your ears, nose, and throat are part of an intricate system that affects many things, including how you hear, speak, and breathe. ENT problems encompass many issues, including allergies, respiratory illnesses, and hearing loss.
ENT doctors possess expertise in both medicine and surgery. They are also often referred to as head and neck surgeons because the problems they address can affect all areas of the head and neck. Otolaryngology often overlaps with other medical subspecialties, including pediatrics, oncology, infectious diseases, and surgery.
Here are some common conditions that may call for a visit to an ENT specialist:
- Ear and Hearing Disorders: ENT physicians assist the nearly 10% of Americans who experience some level of hearing loss. Hearing loss can result from various problems, including ear infections, cranial nerve disorders, injuries, or congenital conditions. In addition to hearing loss, other hearing disorders include tinnitus, where a patient suffers from persistent ringing in the ears. This ringing makes it challenging to concentrate on or hear conversations or causes general irritability, negatively affecting a patient’s quality of life.
- Chronic Ear Infections: Children, especially those aged six months to two years, are particularly susceptible to ear infections due to the size, shape, and orientation of their middle ears and eustachian tubes with respect to the sinuses. It is not uncommon for children to get an ear infection from sicknesses like a common cold or other virus. Recurrent infections can affect hearing and development, making it essential to consult an ENT provider when ear infections are frequent.
- Dizziness or vertigo: Balance relies on multiple body systems, including the inner ear. ENT doctors may be able to diagnose the cause of dizziness, vertigo, and nausea and recommend treatment.
- Sinus and Nasal Disorders: Chronic congestion, or sinusitis, occurs when sinuses become swollen and inflamed, leading to stuffiness and discomfort for prolonged periods. Other nasal disorders include allergies, polyps, a deviated septum, or other obstructions that can cause discomfort and breathing difficulties.
- Throat and Voice Disorders: Tonsillitis is characterized by swollen tonsils, sore throat, and difficulty swallowing. Environmental factors (e.g., pollution, smoking, or chemical exposure) or strains caused by talking, singing, or shouting for long periods can result in a chronic sore throat. Laryngitis is a loss of the ability to speak aloud and may be caused by behavior (straining the voice box from yelling too much) or by other factors, including viruses, chemicals, or pollution. Serious throat problems can affect the voice, breathing, and even eating.
- Lumps in the Neck/Enlarged Lymph Nodes: Lymph nodes are part of the immune system and produce cells that respond to infection; there are lymph nodes in various parts of the body, including the neck. Swollen lymph nodes in the neck usually indicate infection somewhere in the body. While most cases resolve on their own, it is important to consult an ENT provider if the lumps persist, grow, feel hard, or are accompanied by other concerning symptoms when a general practitioner does not determine the cause of the swelling.
- Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing repeatedly stops or becomes shallow during sleep. This condition causes a deficit in oxygen in the blood and prevents patients from getting restful sleep. People with sleep apnea can be chronically tired and may fall asleep periodically during the day, including while driving. Sleep apnea affects millions of people but often goes undiagnosed. ENT providers diagnose sleep apnea by conducting a sleep study for the patient; treatments are available.
The ENT doctors at Northwest Specialty Hospital will work closely with other NWSH specialists in related fields – for example, audiology and sleep medicine – when appropriate to address a patient’s ENT problems in these areas.
Northwest Specialty Hospital, Your ENT Resource
Comprehensive care for ear, nose, and throat ailments is essential for overall health and well-being. At Northwest Specialty Hospital, a team of dedicated otolaryngologists offers expert diagnosis and treatment for a wide range of conditions. Our ENT physicians hold board certification in otolaryngology and head and neck surgery, ensuring that you can access both diagnosis and treatment for conditions affecting the sinuses, nasal passages, facial bones, salivary glands, larynx, tonsils, adenoids, thyroid, as well as the inner and outer ear, tongue, and mouth. To make an appointment with an ENT specialist, contact Northwest Specialty Hospital today.