Q: What is an otolaryngologist?

A: An otolaryngologist is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of ear, nose and throat diseases as well as related structures of the head and neck. Otolaryngologists are also referred to as ENT doctors or physicians.

Q: My child seems to suffer from ear infections a lot. Why is this?

A: Children under the age of three average one to two ear infections a year. These occur when fluid becomes trapped in the middle ear following a viral or bacterial infection. Younger children are most susceptible because their Eustachian tubes are short and still developing, making them prone to swelling and blockages.

Q: What is the treatment for an ear infection?

A: The majority of ear infections will run their course in about a week. Pain can be managed with over-the-counter medications, eardrops and warm compresses. If a bacterial infection is the cause, antibiotics are prescribed. Children who experience chronic ear infections may benefit from ear tubes.

Q: I experience frequent sinus infections. Is this normal?

A: Approximately 38 million American adults suffer from sinusitis, making it the most common chronic condition in the U.S. It occurs when the lining of the sinuses becomes inflamed and swollen. This results in nasal obstruction and infection and causes sinus pain and pressure, nasal congestion and discharge. If medical treatment is ineffective, surgery may be an option.

Q: What other conditions cause nasal obstruction?

A: In addition to sinusitis, nasal obstruction may be the result of a deviated septum, enlargement of the nasal turbinates or nasal polyps. There are surgical solutions for all three conditions.

Q: I’m suffering from hoarseness. What causes this, and should I be concerned?

A: Hoarseness is the result of irritation of the larynx (voice box). The most common causes are upper respiratory infections, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and postnasal drip. If the condition persists longer than four to six weeks, see a doctor to rule out anything more serious.

Q: My snoring is keeping my partner awake. What can I do about this?

A: Snoring is common. Forty-five percent of American adults snore occasionally, and twenty-five percent are habitual snorers. Snoring occurs when the tissues in the throat vibrate. Lifestyle modifications such as losing weight, sleeping on your side instead of your back and avoiding alcohol before bedtime may help. Surgery may also be an option. Snoring is often associated with obstructive sleep apnea, a dangerous medical condition.

Q: What is obstructive sleep apnea?

A: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition in which an individual’s breathing stops periodically during sleep. These episodes can last ten seconds or longer and may occur hundreds of times each night, preventing restorative sleep and leading to daytime fatigue, irritability and memory or concentration problems. OSA increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes. Treatment involving continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is highly effective.

Q: What are the warning signs for head and neck cancer?

A: If you have a lump or sore that doesn’t heal, persistent throat pain or hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, facial numbness, swollen lymph nodes or unexplained weight loss, it is wise to seek medical attention in order to rule out cancer.

Q: What are the signs of hearing loss?

A: Symptoms of hearing loss include difficulty understanding what others are saying, asking people to repeat themselves, struggling to hear in crowded places with background noise, perceiving that others are mumbling or not speaking clearly, listening to the television or radio at a higher volume than others need it and experiencing a ringing or buzzing in the ears. You may find yourself withdrawing from social situations in order to avoid conversation and also may experience depression.

Q: Will wearing a hearing aid make me appear old or frail?

A: Today’s hearing aids are small and discreet, and some models are completely invisible to others. Besides, asking people to repeat themselves, responding inappropriately when others are talking and social withdrawal are more obvious indicators of hearing loss than wearing hearing aids!