Ear, Nose, and Throat Conditions: Common Questions
What symptoms are commonly associated with conditions of the ear, nose, and throat?
Although there is a wide range of symptoms that can be associated with conditions of the ear, nose, and throat, some of the most common include but are not limited to:
- Watery eyes
- Itchy eyes
- Runny nose
- Itchy nose
- Painful or swollen ear(s)
- Ringing or buzzing sounds (tinnitus)
- Hearing loss
- Thick drainage from the ear(s)
- Blocked or full sensation in the ear
- Sore or swollen throat
- Loss of voice (laryngitis)
- Sore or swollen neck
- Jaw pain
- Excessive snoring, that causes frequent waking
How serious can ear, nose, and throat conditions be?
Certain conditions and diseases of the ear, nose, and throat can cause serious health problems. In some cases, especially if they are not detected and treated early, diseases such as cancer and infection involving the ear, nose, and throat can cause death. Most conditions of the ear, nose, and throat, however, can be effectively treated or managed. If you are experiencing problems with your ear(s), nose, and throat, be sure to visit your doctor. He or she can diagnose your condition and recommend treatment options to help resolve or manage your condition.
Can a problem with my ears, nose, or throat be related to another health problem?
Yes. Sometimes other conditions such as problems with your teeth, digestive issues, effects of aging, and even depression can cause problems of the ear, nose, and throat. If you are experiencing problems with your ear(s), nose, and throat, our specialists at Summit Medical Group can examine you and perform state-of-the-art tests to help diagnose your condition and develop a treatment plan for you.
Who is at risk of developing an ear, nose, and throat condition?
Anyone can develop problems of the ear, nose, and throat, including babies who are teething, people who have or are recovering from a cold, people with allergies, adults with dental problems, and people who smoke or consume large amounts of alcohol.
Is it ok to travel by air with an earache?
If you have an earache and are planning to travel by air, it is important to be sure that you do not have an ear infection. The change in pressure during take off and landing can cause pain and, in some cases, the eardrum can rupture in people who have an infection.
Can loud noise or music damage my ears or cause ringing or buzzing in my ears?
If you are exposed to high levels of noise or music, you are at risk for permanent damage to your ears and hearing. The damage can include hearing loss and ringing or buzzing in the ears (tinnitus). In most cases, it takes time (even years) for patients to notice the damage to their ears and hearing. For these reasons, it is especially important to protect your ears with earplugs when attending loud concerts, parties, or events that use loud speakers to amplify sound. If you use earphones to listen to music from an iPod or similar device, keeping the volume at or lower than 85 decibels will protect the health of your ears and hearing.
Is there a cure for ringing/buzzing (tinnitus) in the ears?
Ringing or buzzing in the ears, or tinnitus, is usually a result of temporary or permanent damage to a nerve at the lower surface of the brain¾the vestibulocochlear cranial nerve. Infections, large doses of aspirin, and certain medications as well as exposure to loud noise or music can cause tinnitus. Difficult to diagnose and treat, tinnitus is one of 3 symptoms (ringing/buzzing sounds, vertigo, and deafness), of Meniere’s disease. In some cases, tinnitus is temporary and resolves on its own. Although there is no cure for tinnitus, your physician can recommend ways to manage it.
Can I get an earache from using the telephone?
Yes. It is possible to develop an infection or inflammation as a result of using the telephone. The surface of the telephone often contains bacteria that are spread from the hands. Cleansing the handset of your telephone with antibacterial wipes that are especially designed for this purpose can help lessen your risk of infection.
What color should my earwax be?
Wax is a natural substance your body produces to protect your ears from dust and dirt. It can range in color from a light clear yellow to dark brown. If you believe your earwax contains blood, you should see your physician immediately.
What is the best way to clean wax from my ears?
Because earwax is designed to move up and out of the ear canal on its own, there is usually no reason to clean anything more than the outer ear. Using cue tips to clean the ear tubes can push wax down into the ear canal, causing it to stick and making it difficult to hear clearly. One way to soften earwax is to use a few drops of olive oil or drops from the pharmacy. The drops should be administered 3 times a day for a week in each ear. The wax should then travel up and out of the ear(s) on its own. Your doctor also can gently flush wax from your ears with clean, warm water.
Why does sinusitis frequently recur?
Located above and below the eyes and just behind the nose, the sinuses are lined with a membrane that produces mucous. If the mucous membrane becomes infected or inflamed, the sinuses can fill with thickened mucous that does not drain properly. This process sometimes causes pressure or pain. In some cases, a yellowish, bloody discharge from the nose can be accompanied with fever and severe pain.
Most sinusitis results from a viral or bacterial infection such as a cold. Recurrent inflammation or infection makes it difficult to resolve the condition. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial sinusitis, however, a relatively long course is needed so that the inflammation can resolve and the sinuses can drain properly. Although viral sinusitis cannot be treated with antibiotics, your ear, nose, and throat specialist can treat you, give you advice about ways to boost your body’s natural immune system, and teach you preventive measures to protect the health of your sinuses and reduce the frequency of your sinusitis.
Why is my child’s nose is always runny?
Cold viruses can cause your child to have a runny nose for an extended period of time. Most children get the viruses while playing with other children at school, in a playgroup, or on a playground. Because viruses do not respond to antibiotic treatment, colds must run their course¾a process that can take many days and sometimes weeks to completely resolve. Allergies also can cause a persistently running nose.
Why have I lost my sense of smell?
Cells in the upper part of the back of the nose are responsible for the sense of smell. To function properly, you must have an adequate flow of air to carry the scent molecules to the cells. Swelling in the nasal lining that partially or completely obstructs airflow in the nasal passages can reduce or preclude your sense of smell. Colds, allergies, asthma, chronic rhinitis, infections, and polyps can cause prolonged nasal obstruction that interferes with the sense of smell. Ask your ear, nose, and throat specialist about treatments for or ways to manage nasal obstruction. If it is untreated, the damage to your sense of smell can be permanent.
What causes chronic postnasal drip?
When there is an excess of nasal mucus, it can drain from the back of the sinuses (postnasal drip), down the throat, and into the stomach where it is digested. During a cold, mucus typically thickens and sticks in the throat, prompting the need to clear the throat or cough. Chronic postnasal drip can result from many causes, including a cold, allergies, infection, or a more serious condition. If you are experiencing postnasal drip that has lasted more than a week, ask your ear, nose, and throat specialist to examine you.
Is loud, persistent snoring normal?
Snoring that interferes with a person’s sleep is not normal and should be addressed. When left untreated, excessive snoring can cause daytime sleepiness, stress, poor concentration, and depression. It also can increase a person’s risk of accidents, high blood pressure, and heart problems. Snoring that intermittently stops your breathing (obstructive sleep apnea) can cause serious health problems. There are no medications to treat excessive snoring; however, certain lifestyle changes can help improve the problem. They include but are not limited to:
- Keeping physically fit and maintaining a healthy weight
- Not smoking
- Sleeping on your front or side, with your head slightly raised
- Avoiding alcohol, sedatives (including sleep medications, tranquilizers, and antihistamines)
- Managing allergies or sinus problems
If you or your partner’s snoring is causing you to wake when you sleep, ask your ear, nose, and throat specialist to examine you and discuss ways to improve or resolve the problem.
What causes nosebleeds?
Nosebleeds are rarely related to a serious health problem. Bleeding from the nose most commonly occurs when the small, delicate blood vessels inside the nose become irritated and burst open. This can happen when you have an infection, virus, or cold. Certain oral medications and nasal sprays also can cause nosebleeds. In some rare cases, nosebleeds indicate inherited abnormalities of the small blood vessels, local disease of the nose or sinuses, high blood pressure, liver disease, vitamin deficiencies, or a blood disorder.
If you are experiencing regular or periodic nosebleeds, be sure to ask an ear, nose, and throat specialist to examine you. When you have a nosebleed, you can stop the bleeding by holding the fleshy lower part of your nose together for about 15 minutes. Then avoid rubbing or blowing your nose for several days so that the blood vessels inside your nose have time to heal.
What is strep throat?
The term strep is an abbreviation for streptococcus¾a bacterium that commonly causes a sore throat and fever. Like many bacteria that can cause an infection, step is found in small numbers in healthy people who have no symptoms of infection. Although strep throat typically produces red, inflamed tonsils dotted with white patches of pus, the same symptoms also can be found in throat infections from other causes. Your ear, nose, and throat specialist can test you to confirm whether your sore throat is a result of a strep infection.
What would cause a sore throat that lasts for weeks?
An ongoing sore throat could have many causes. The most common causes of a sore throat are a viral or bacterial infection that results in postnasal drip and coughing, both of which irritate tissues in the throat and cause inflammation and soreness. Viral infections do not respond to antibiotics and must run their course. For this reason, it can take some people as long as a few weeks to recover from a viral infection or cold. Once they are treated with an antibiotic, bacterial infections of the throat should improve within days. Another cause of sore throat is allergies that promote postnasal drip. There are, however, more serious conditions of the sinuses and throat that may cause the throat to be sore. If you are experiencing an ongoing sore throat, ask your ear, nose, and throat specialist to examine you.
Could my bad breath be related to a throat problem?
Although bad breath is usually caused by poor dental hygiene or tooth decay and digestive disorders, it also can result from decaying debris that is caught in the crypts of the tonsils.
How can I get rid of a “furry” tongue?
A “furry” tongue is not an indication of internal disease. If you have an oral yeast (Candida albicans) infection, oral medication can resolve the condition. Good dental hygiene that includes brushing the tongue and rinsing the mouth with dilute salt water can help reduce or eliminate “furry” tongue. Because yeast can be associated with elevated blood sugar (diabetes), it is important to have your urine checked if you are having problems with yeast.
What can I do about my recurring tonsillitis?
If you experience frequent and severe bouts of tonsillitis, surgery to remove the tonsils is an option. If you are considering surgery to remove your tonsils (tonsillectomy), it is important for your ear, nose, and throat specialist to examine you and discuss the benefits and risks of surgery as well as nonsurgical options to treat your tonsillitis.
If I have no tonsils, am I more prone to infections?
Although tonsils help prevent bacteria from getting farther down the throat, removing the tonsils (tonsillectomy) does not increase a person’s or child’s risk of infections. This is because other tissues in the body prevent infection once the tonsils are removed. In some cases, children have fewer throat infections after they have had a tonsillectomy.