Bothersome symptoms like nasal congestion, sinus pressure, and a scratchy throat are fairly routine and can often be addressed by a primary care physician or urgent care clinician. Sometimes, these symptoms can even be treated at home with self-care measures like resting, staying hydrated, and taking over-the-counter medications. So, what are the signs that you should see an ENT specialist, and when can symptoms be treated at home or by another medical professional? Let’s take a closer look.
What Does an ENT Specialist Do?
First things first—what is an ENT specialist, exactly? “ENT” stands for ear, nose, and throat, so an ENT specialist is uniquely trained to address issues that affect these structures as well as other areas of the head and neck. A more formal name for an ENT specialist is an otolaryngologist, or a physician who practices otolaryngology. Otolaryngology is the medical discipline that deals with issues affecting the ears, nose, and throat.
An ENT specialist possesses an in-depth understanding of the ears, nose, and throat, along with the sinuses, lymph nodes, and other complex structures within the head and neck. ENT specialists are also trained to perform certain head and neck surgeries, such as thyroid gland removal, sinus cavity procedures, and eardrum repair.
Signs You Should See an ENT Specialist
It’s important to consult with an ENT specialist if you experience any of the following issues:
Mild hearing loss may temporarily occur after attending a loud concert or working in a noisy environment, such as a construction site. However, hearing loss that gradually worsens, occurs suddenly, or does not improve after a week or two should be evaluated by an ENT specialist.
Some cases of hearing loss are linked to treatable issues such as ear infections and earwax buildup. Often, though, impaired hearing is a result of the natural aging process. ENT specialists work hand in hand with audiologists (professionals who assess hearing capabilities) to identify and address hearing loss with solutions like hearing aids.
Ringing in the Ears
Tinnitus—or ringing in the ears—is a complex problem in which buzzing or ringing noises occur in the ears although no external source of noise is present. An ENT specialist has the expertise necessary to diagnose and treat ringing in the ears. Although tinnitus isn’t always curable, an ENT physician can recommend ways to effectively manage symptoms and improve quality of life.
Frequent Ear Infections
It’s wise to speak with an ENT specialist if you routinely develop ear infections. While it’s fairly normal for young children to experience frequent ear infections, this problem may signal an underlying issue in adults, such as a bacterial infection, severe allergies, or sinusitis.
Ongoing Nasal Congestion
Waking up with a stuffy nose is rarely a cause for concern. However, it’s not normal to experience nasal congestion for an extended period of time. Ongoing nasal congestion is often a sign of sinusitis—an inflammation or infection of the tissues that line the sinus cavities. Sinusitis can cause the nasal passageways to swell and lead to an excess of mucus that may be thick or discolored.
An ENT specialist may prescribe antibiotics if they suspect a bacterial infection is present. Other treatment options for nasal congestion include decongestants, inhaled steroids that can reduce swelling in sinus membranes, and allergy medication if symptoms are related to allergies.
Chronic Sore Throat
Also known as chronic pharyngitis, a chronic sore throat isn’t the same thing as occasional throat scratchiness. Rather, it refers to inflammation toward the back of the throat that persists for more than a week or frequently recurs. Chronic pharyngitis can cause intense pain and make it difficult to swallow or speak comfortably.
An ENT specialist can swiftly diagnose the underlying cause of chronic pharyngitis and provide appropriate treatment, which may include antibiotics to cure infections or allergy medications to address allergy-related inflammation.
Ongoing Sinus Pain
Chronic sinusitis—or a sinus infection that lingers for more than 12 weeks—is the most common reason for ongoing sinus pain, which can feel like throbbing pressure or increased tenderness around the eyes, forehead, and nose. Other symptoms may include nasal congestion, post-nasal drip, ear pain, cough, and fatigue.
The first step in treating chronic sinusitis is to identify its underlying cause, which may involve allergies, infection, nasal polyps, or deviated septum complications. An ENT specialist can diagnose the source of ongoing sinus pain and provide appropriate treatment, which may include medication or a minimally invasive balloon sinuplasty procedure.
ENT specialists also excel in diagnosing and treating peripheral vertigo—a condition that can make you lose balance and feel like the room is spinning. This type of vertigo begins in the inner ear when calcium crystals become displaced from their typical position, although ear infections and other factors can also contribute to vertigo. It’s estimated that up to 40% of Americans experience vertigo at some point in their lives.
Ear | Nose | Throat
Treating the Entire System
Your head and neck contain a series of interconnected systems. Consult with Dr. Branch for a diagnosis and treatment options pertaining to the ear, nose and throat.SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT
Other Head or Neck Problems
ENT specialists have the expertise necessary to diagnose and treat a wide range of other head and neck problems, including:
- Voice hoarseness
- Sleep apnea
- Enlarged neck lymph nodes
- Trouble swallowing
- Smelling disorders
- Deviated septum issues
- Cleft palates
- Nose bleeds
- Balance issues
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Take the Next Step
Don’t delay the expert care you need when Florida Medical Clinic makes it simple to consult with an experienced ENT specialist. Our otolaryngology team includes Dr. Michael Branch, an ENT specialist who excels in treating head and neck problems like chronic sinusitis, hearing loss, voice hoarseness, and frequent ear infections. You can schedule an appointment with Dr. Branch by visiting our website or calling (813) 778-0101. A referral is not required to make an appointment with an ENT specialist.
Meet Michael Branch, MD
Dr. Michael Branch is a U.S. Air Force veteran and board-certified otolaryngologist who serves patients at Florida Medical Clinic’s locations in WaterGrass and Zephyrhills. Raised in Gainesville, Dr. Branch is a graduate of Wake Forest University and the Bowman Gray School of Medicine. When he’s not caring for patients, Dr. Branch enjoys playing music and spending time outdoors with his wife and children.