When you fly on a commercial airline and the plane pressurizes, you might need to pop your ears to equalize the pressure in your head to the atmosphere around you. Though you feel the adjustment in your ears, your nose and throat are also connected to the process, since they share the same set of mucous membranes.
Problems with any of these three parts will affect each other, and they require a visit to an otolaryngologist, or ENT – a doctor who specializes in the treatment of the ear, nose, and throat.
The Ear, Nose, and Throat System
Viruses, fungi, or bacteria present in one area of the ENT system often travel through the connective pathways and cause problems with the other areas. The shared pathway that runs from the middle ear to the back of the throat is called the eustachian tube.
The rear of the nose, called the posterior, also leads directly into the throat, which is divided into three parts: the nasopharynx directly behind the nose, the oropharynx behind the mouth, and the laryngopharynx, which houses the voice box. All of these connect and are surrounded by the hollow sinus cavities located in the cheekbones, center of the forehead, between the eyes, and in the nose. This interconnected system helps you smell, breathe, taste, and hear.
Conditions an ENT Treats
An otolaryngologist treats the entire ear, nose, and throat system – including most medical conditions from the neck up (except the brain and eyes) – affecting these issues:
- hearing (such as swimmer’s ear)
- smell (such as sinusitis or nasal allergies)
- balance (such as vertigo)
- breathing and sleep issues (such as sleep apnea)
- head and neck cancers
- facial conditions (such as those requiring plastic and reconstructive surgery)
- throat problems (such as postnasal drip)
ENTs are also surgeons who repair the delicate structures of the ear, nose, and throat to restore function. They are trained over a 5- to 8-year residency, and some pursue further specialization in a fellowship.
Since the ear, nose, and throat are so closely connected, an otolaryngologist treats a combination of subspecialties. The field of otology addresses conditions that affect the ear like tinnitus, balance, and hearing loss. The umbrella of laryngology focuses on throat disorders that affect the ability to speak and swallow properly, including sore throat, gastroesophageal reflux disorders, airway and throat problems, and issues with vocal cords. The medical field of rhinology treats the nose and related problems, such as deviated septum, sinusitis and headaches, and nasal obstruction.
The ear, nose, and throat are also affected by the sinus cavities, which produce mucus that lines the nasal cavity. The sinuses act as a filter for irritants or pollutants that you breathe in through your nose. The tiny hairs that line the nasal cavity help move the mucus and any pollutants it catches through the system. Any sinus issues are also treated by an otolaryngologist.
ENT Expertise in Austin
An otolaryngologist can help you with any issues affecting your delicate ear, nose, and throat system.
Our ENT specialists at Nasal & Sinus Center of Austin can provide you with diagnosis and treatment, so you know exactly which structure is the source of your problem – whether it’s a sinus infection, trouble breathing, or other symptom.
To make an appointment with one of our specialists, call us at (512) 339-4040, or schedule an appointment online so you can breathe easier as soon as possible.