Category: Blog

Meet Our New Speech-Language Pathologist, Amy Schiwitz

Throat Monitor OPT

We communicate every day. From a simple “hello” in the morning to a discussion about a project at work, speech is a part of our entire day. However, have you ever wondered what would happen if you were unable to communicate with your voice?

ExcelENT is very fortunate to welcome a new member to our team to assist you in any speech, voice, and swallowing issues that you may experience. We are excited to introduce Amy Schiwitz, speech-language pathologist, to the ExcelENT of Alabama team!

 

Picture of Amy Schiwitz, speech-language pathologist

Meet Amy Schiwitz!

With more than eight years of experience in speech and language pathology, Schiwitz is excited to bring her knowledge and expertise to the community.

“I have always been fascinated with how we communicate with one another,” says Schiwitz. “You go from having an idea in your head, then the brain processes it and turns it into English. Then, it turns into movements in the vocal cords, tongue, and lips as the person speaks what they were thinking and the other person almost instantaneously understands your words. It is extremely interesting.”

It’s easy to take verbal communication for granted until you have speech and swallowing issues. 

“One aspect I enjoy about this position is that I am able to see a wide range of patients,” Schiwitz says. “From teenagers to even a 105-year-old patient, I am able to help a variety of patients with speech and swallowing issues, which keeps things interesting.”


What Can You Expect During a Consultation?

If you have been experiencing a voice problem for more than two weeks, it is best to seek the assistance of a speech-language pathologist. If you have swallowing issues, it is important to schedule an appointment as soon as you notice difficulty swallowing.

“When it comes to voice problems, I see a lot of issues due to reflux, sinus drainage, vocal overuse, and growths on vocal cords,” says Schiwitz. “When a patient first walks into my office, we discuss their medical history. We also discuss when the problem first started so I can better understand the issue at hand.”

Schiwitz uses an endoscope in the patient’s nose to help her diagnose the issue. Then she and the patient discuss her findings. Together, they develop a plan to alleviate the symptoms and help the patient improve his or her quality of life.

 

Treatment Options Are Available

Depending on the diagnosis, there are a variety of treatment options available to help patients with speech and swallowing disorders.

“I am able to provide voice and swallowing therapy, which is completely individualized to the patient,” explains Schiwitz. “However, if more medical intervention is needed, Dr. Davis is here to assist. Patients are able to get a two-for-one deal when it comes to treatment here at ExcelENT of Alabama.”

If Schiwitz determines that voice therapy is the best option, patients will usually see improvement within the first few sessions. If the patient needs medication or surgical intervention, Schiwitz and Dr. Davis work closely to provide the treatment.

“As a therapist, I love that patients are able to not only have therapy benefits, but also more involved medical treatment, if needed, by an experienced and knowledgeable physician. We really do treat the whole patient here, and not just the symptoms, which is something I enjoy most about being a part of the ExcelENT of Alabama team.”

 

Discover how the team at ExcelENT of Alabama in Birmingham, AL, can help you regain your voice and swallowing issues!

Are you suffering from voice and swallowing issues? Contact the team at ExcelENT of Alabama today to schedule an appointment for a medical evaluation to receive the proper diagnosis and treatment plan. 

Spring into allergy and sinus relief

Spring into allergy and sinus relief

There are so many things to enjoy about the spring season. Baseball season, gardening, and just being able to spend more time outdoors are just a few of the things that make the spring season amazing!

But, want to know one thing that doesn’t make spring so great? The wonderful pollen that falls from the sky and onto our cars and clothing, causing us to sneeze, cough and feel just plain awful.

Fortunately, our team at ExcelENT of Alabama wants you to know that your spring season can still be an enjoyable one—even if you do suffer from spring allergies, and here’s how:

 

But First—What Are Allergies?

 

It is very common for allergies and sinus infections to be mistaken for one another. As a result, it is important if you are unsure whether your symptoms are related to allergies or a sinus infection that you seek medical treatment from an ENT specialist to ensure you are given the right treatment plan for your condition.

Check out our blog here on how you can tell the difference between allergies and sinus infections.

Many times allergy symptoms can turn into a sinus infection if not treated properly. Therefore, if you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with allergies, it is important to schedule an appointment with an ENT to prevent your condition from turning into a more serious problem like sinusitis (sinus infection) or chronic sinusitis.

 

Take Action Against Allergies

 

Of course, the best way to treat allergy symptoms is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Let’s take a look at some ways you can reduce your risk of suffering from allergies this spring, starting with:

  • Avoiding exposing yourself to things you know will cause allergy symptoms.
  • Getting exercise on a regular basis.
  • Making sure you wash your hands frequently.
  • Quitting smoking if you are a smoker.
  • Showering when you are home for the night.
  • Taking over-the-counter allergy medications like Xyzal, Zyrtec, Claritin, etc.
  • Trying a humidifier at night to assist with any congestion.
  • Using nasal spray (saline solution) or a neti pot.

However, if symptoms are still strong after trying these home remedies and over-the-counter allergy medications, it is time to seek treatment from a knowledgeable and experienced ENT specialist.

 

When to See an ENT for a Sinus Infection

 

Sinus infections can happen from time to time, especially when allergens are at their worst (i.e., spring and summer). But, there is a difference between a sinus infection here and there and constant sinus infections (also known as “chronic sinusitis”) that last for months.

Symptoms of chronic sinusitis include:

  • Decreased sense of smell
  • Discolored nasal discharge
  • Facial pain (including pressure and/or fullness)
  • Nasal congestion
  • Nasal obstruction
  • Thick nasal discharge

If you have been fighting off sinus infections for more than three months, it is time to seek medical attention to regain your quality of life. Especially if antibiotics have been of no relief, it is time to discuss other treatment methods available.

 

We Are Here to Help!

 

Depending on the severity of symptoms, sometimes avoiding the allergens that cause you problems and a prescription nasal spray or other sinus medication can be helpful. However, if your symptoms turn into chronic sinusitis, surgical procedures like balloon sinuplasty might be a better option.

Contact our office today to schedule an appointment so you can find relief sooner rather than later to start enjoying a wonderful spring season!

 

Discover how the team at ExcelENT of Alabama in Birmingham, AL, can help you find allergy and sinus relief!

Are you having sinus issues? Contact the team at ExcelENT of Alabama today to schedule an appointment for a medical evaluation to receive the proper diagnosis and treatment plan when it comes to chronic sinusitis.

3 ways to protect your hearing

Hearing Loss OPT

Huh?
What did you say?
Can you repeat that one more time?

It is one thing if you have a moment of not being able to hear, but what if you are constantly asking the aforementioned questions? Then, you might be one of 48 million people living in the United States suffering from hearing loss.

Fortunately, our team at ExcelENT of Alabama is here to help you when suffering from any form of hearing loss, including ear infections, tinnitus, and Eustachian Tube Dysfunction (ETD).

 

Preventing Hearing Loss

 

One of the best ways to treat hearing loss is to prevent it from occurring in the first place, especially as we age. While nothing is 100% and sometimes hearing loss just happens as we grow older, there are certain steps we can take in order to try to reduce our risk of experiencing hearing loss in the future.

Let’s take a look at some ways we can prevent damage to our hearing as we age, starting with:

 

Listen While You Work!

 

Are you exposed to loud noises at work? Precautions should be taken in order to reduce the amount of noise at your job as best as possible for your protection and the protection of your hearing.

Be sure you are wearing the proper hearing protection like earplugs or ear muffs while at work, as well as take breaks from being exposed to the loud noise for long periods of time. If possible, try to discuss with upper management about the ability to switch to quieter equipment in the future.

 

Play Your Music—Just Not So Loud!

 

We have all been guilty of turning up the stereo louder than we should to listen to our favorite song. However, it can cause more damage to our hearing than we realize.

In addition, earphones and headphones pose some of the greatest risks to our hearing since they play music so close to our eardrum. Therefore, it is important to take action when listening to your music so that you are not damaging your hearing at the same time.

If you do need to use earphones or headphones to listen to music, try to use the noise-cancelling kind so that you don’t have to keep turning up the volume to block out the noise coming from the outside.

Best practice when listening to music is to not listen to it at more than 60% of the maximum volume, as well as take a break every hour for five minutes.

 

Undergo a Hearing Test

 

According to the American Speech-Language Association, adults should have their hearing tested at a minimum of every 10 years. However, once you reach the age of 50, it is best to start scheduling a hearing test every three years to ensure your hearing is being maintained as you age.

At ExcelENT of Alabama, our experienced and knowledgeable audiologist, Dr. Abby Turnbough, Au.D., is here to help patients protect and maintain their hearing. During the thorough hearing evaluation, which takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes, you will undergo an otoscopy (where Dr. Turnbough will look in your ears to determine any abnormalities), a pressure test, a speech test, and a tonal testing, which is where you will listen to a series of tones at different decimals.

You don’t have to live with hearing loss. Our team is here to help you get your hearing back and improve your quality of life!

 

Discover how the team at ExcelENT of Alabama in Birmingham, AL, can help you maintain your hearing as you age!

Are you having trouble hearing? Contact the team at Excel ENT of Alabama today to schedule an appointment for a hearing evaluation to receive the proper diagnosis and treatment plan when it comes to hearing loss.

No stuffy noses allowed!

Why am I losing My voice?, nasal congestion

Oh the joy of nasal congestion. It can come out of nowhere and is usually the first sign of other symptoms headed your way.

There can be many causes of nasal congestion. Our team at Excel ENT of Alabama wants to help you figure out not only the cause, but also a treatment plan so that you can get back to living your life without a stuffy nose! 

What Causes Nasal Congestion?

Nasal congestion, also known as a “stuffy nose,” occurs when the blood vessels inside the nose (in addition to the adjacent tissues) becomes swollen with excessive fluid. This fluid is what gives the nose a feeling of being “stuffy.”

Symptoms of nasal congestion include stuffy/runny nose, nasal pain, mucus buildup and/or nasal swelling. Since there could be a number of health-care issues causing your nasal congestion symptom, including but not limited to:

  • Allergies
  • Benign tumors
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Common cold
  • Deviated septum
  • Flu
  • Hay fever
  • Nasal polyps
  • Sinus infection
  • Various irritants, like tobacco smoke

Therefore, since there can be various reasons why you are suffering from nasal congestion, it is important to seek medical attention, especially if your symptoms have lasted a few days without relief, or new symptoms have appeared. 

What Treatments Help with Nasal Congestion?

Trying to be productive during the day with nasal congestion can be difficult. As a result, you want to try to find relief from nasal congestion as soon as possible. 

Fortunately, there are some home remedies you can try for a stuffy nose to see if anything can work to alleviate your symptoms. 

First, try sleeping with a humidifier at night. A humidifier allows moisture to be added to the air, which can help not only break up mucus but also soothe your nasal passages that are inflamed. 

Second, placing a warm face cloth over your face can also help in soothing your nasal passages and finding relief from a stuffy nose. You might also want to use this treatment method while also using pillows to prop your head up during the night to help you breathe easier. 

Finally, taking a hot shower can also assist in clearing up your nasal congestion, as the steam from the shower can improve breathing by allowing the mucus to drain through the nose. Although this home remedy method might not last as long as the others, it can certainly help you to find relief for at least a while. 

Is It Time to Visit a Doctor?

If home remedies do not work, it might be time to seek medical attention so that a better diagnosis and treatment plan can be given to help treat your nasal congestion, including:

  • Antibiotics
  • Nasal spray, which includes an antihistamine 
  • Nasal steroid
  • Prescription-strength decongestants
  • Surgery, if caused by nasal polyps or tumors

Tired of suffering from endless sinus infections? Contact the team at Excel ENT of Alabama today to schedule an appointment to discuss your options when it comes to the treatment of chronic sinusitis. 

Why am I losing my voice?

microphone - voice

You don’t realize how much you miss the sound of your voice or ability to talk until you lose it. Hoarseness can take you by surprise, or it can be a symptom that slowly starts to appear, depending on the cause. 

While some cases of hoarseness might resolve over time, other situations might linger to where more advanced treatment like speech therapy is needed. Our team at Excel ENT of Alabama is here to help you decipher the cause of hoarseness, as well as provide treatment options to help you find your voice again!

What Causes Hoarseness?

Hoarseness, which is also known as “dysphonia,” is defined as a condition in which you experience abnormal voice changes. 

The common causes of hoarseness include but are not limited to:

  • Allergies
  • Common cold
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Neurological disorders
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Smoking
  • Thyroid problems
  • Trauma to the voice box
  • Upper respiratory tract infection
  • Voice abuse (like using voice too much, too loudly, etc.)

Because hoarseness can be caused by a number of medical conditions, it is important to seek an evaluation by a professional to make sure the right diagnosis and treatment plan is put together for your condition.

Prevent Hoarseness Before It Starts

Fortunately, there are things you can do to protect your voice before the symptom of hoarseness sets in and treatment is needed.

First, if you are a current smoker, quitting smoking can help to prevent hoarseness and voice deepening to occur. In addition, you can lower your risk of lung cancer and other medical conditions that are increased by smoking. Talk to a professional today about how you can start on the road to living a smoke-free life!

Second, make sure you are drinking plenty of water each day. While water is beneficial to our overall health, it can specifically help our voice, too. Since mucus is vital to protecting our vocal cords, staying hydrated helps your body to create that thin, watery mucus to ensure protection of your voice.

Finally, be sure to give your voice a break every now and then, especially if you are using it for longs period of time. Singers and educators, for instance, are using their voice more than most. This can cause strain on the vocal cords if a “time out” isn’t given once in awhile.

Therefore, sometimes the best thing you can do for your voice to prevent hoarseness is to just take a break from speaking. 

Treatment Is Available!

While some cases of hoarseness can be taken care of with plenty of rest and possibly some medications to soothe your throat, other treatment methods like voice therapy might be required if your hoarseness doesn’t alleviate within a few days. 

Voice therapy can be a wonderful tool in relieving the symptom of hoarseness, as the process can both help to reduce damage to your vocal cords while also restoring the health of your voice. 

Lost your voice? Contact the team at Excel ENT of Alabama today to schedule an appointment to discuss how voice therapy could help you to find your voice again! 

Am I a good candidate for sinus surgery?

Doctor Explaining ENT

Headache, runny nose, nasal congestion, oh my!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 26 million Americans are diagnosed with sinusitis. Are you one of them?

What Is Sinusitis?

Sinusitis, also known as a sinus infection, occurs when the nasal passages become inflamed. There are two main types of sinusitis—acute sinusitis and chronic sinusitis.

Symptoms of sinusitis include:

  • Bad breath
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Loss of smell
  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Teeth pain

Depending on the type of sinusitis, treatment options vary.

For acute sinusitis, treatment includes saline nasal washes, over-the-counter medications (like a decongestant), and a possible antibiotic. However, if despite treatment, your symptoms continue for 12 weeks or more, chronic sinusitis is most likely the culprit.

In this case, sinus surgery might be the best answer for relief.

Will Sinus Surgery Help?

In most cases, physicians will give patients time for other treatment methods to work to improve your sinus infection symptoms.

However, if after three months, pain and other symptoms continue, chances are great that there is an obstruction of the sinuses. Therefore, sinus surgery might be recommended.

“If other medications for sinusitis leave the patient without relief, surgery is the next best option,” says J. Christopher Davis, MD, FACS, an otolaryngology (ear, nose & throat) specialist at Excel ENT of Alabama. “Sinus surgery, including balloon sinuplasty, can help patients find relief from their condition, as well as lower their risks of suffering from sinus infections in the future.”

Good candidates for sinus surgery include patients who have:

  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Deviated septum
  • Nasal or sinus polyps
  • Sinus disease due to a fungal infection

When Sinus Surgery Is an Option

Fortunately, if your condition calls for a medical procedure, there are a number of sinus surgery options available. Balloon sinuplasty is one option.

“During a balloon sinuplasty, a catheter with an inflatable balloon attached to it is inserted into the patient’s sinuses and a balloon is inflated to widen the sinus outflow tracts,” Dr. Davis explains. “Since balloon sinuplasty is a less invasive treatment option than the traditional endoscopic sinus surgery, it is beginning to be the method of choice in mild to moderate cases of chronic sinusitis.”

Another sinus surgery option includes a functional endoscopic surgery. It’s important to talk to an ENT to decide which option is best for you and your medical condition.

 

Are you tired of suffering from chronic sinus infections? Contact the team at Excel ENT of Alabama today to schedule an appointment to discuss your treatment options, including sinus surgery.

Allergies vs. sinuses – what’s the difference?

Allergies vs. sinuses – what’s the difference?

Hello, allergy and sinus season! Between a stuffy nose, headache, and everything in between, it can seem as though the symptoms keep coming on in different ways, which can confuse you as to what you might be suffering from.

Fortunately, the team at Excel ENT of Alabama has some “tricks of the trade” when it comes to finding out whether or not you are suffering from allergies or sinuses.

AHH-CHOO!

As soon as the weather changes, it seems as though the sniffles and coughs come with it. But, who is the culprit? Allergies or a sinus infection?

While the answer sometimes cannot always be clear, the team at Excel ENT of Alabama wants you to know there are signs that might point in one direction or the other.

Is It a Sinus Infection?

A sinus infection is a very common medical condition that affects more than 30 million people living in the United States every year. As a result, it makes it one of the most commonly diagnosed medical conditions among Americans.

Symptoms of a sinus infection include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Facial tenderness and/or swelling
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Pain in back of eyes, ears, and/or forehead
  • Loss of smell
  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Sinus pressure
  • Sore throat

While sinus infections can be taken care of with plenty of rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medications (like decongestants and antibiotics), there can come a time where more medical intervention is needed.

Therefore, if you continue to suffer from a sinus infection for more than 4 to 6 weeks, you might want to speak to an ear, nose, and throat physician who can guide you through other treatment options, including surgery.

What About Allergies?

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, allergies are one of the most chronic diseases in the United States. While more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year, as stated by the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, most symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, and allergy shots, if necessary.

The following are the most common signs of allergies, including:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Hives
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Rash
  • Runny nose
  • Skin irritation
  • Sneezing

Because more serious allergies (like to certain foods and drugs) can cause life-threatening symptoms in patients, it is important for people who suffer from allergies undergo allergy testing in case an EpiPen is needed.

Are you tired of suffering from sinus infection after sinus infection? We don’t blame you! Contact the experienced team at Excel ENT of Alabama today to schedule an appointment to discuss  the right treatment option for you!