Category: Blog

Breathe Easier This Holiday Season with VivAer®

A woman standing by a Christmas tree with decorations tired, rubbing her nose and eyes, feeling nasal obstruction.

The holidays are full of joyful occasions like office parties, family get-togethers, and even cozy moments at home. The last thing you want is difficulty breathing, headaches, and fatigue while celebrating the most wonderful time of the year. We understand how challenging it can be to enjoy the festivities when you don’t feel your best.

If you suffer from difficulty breathing through your nose, fatigue, and headaches, you may have chronic nasal obstruction. Thankfully, VivAer® Nasal Airway remodeling is an innovative, non-invasive treatment designed to improve all your symptoms. In this blog, the team of experts at Excel ENT discusses all you need to know about VivAer® treatment and how it can help you.

What Are the Symptoms of Nasal Obstruction?

Nasal obstruction is caused by the enlargement, or swelling, of certain structures in the nose, like the septum, lateral wall, or turbinates. As these structures swell, the airway size becomes smaller, causing difficulty breathing. If you frequently have trouble breathing through your nose, you may have chronic nasal obstruction.

Some of the common symptoms of nasal obstruction include:

  • Trouble breathing through your nose
  • A sensation of something blocking your nasal passage
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Inability to breathe through your nose during exercise
  • Loud snoring
  • Facial pain or pressure
  • Headaches

If you are experiencing these symptoms, we recommend you contact your primary care doctor. Your primary physician can refer you to an otolaryngologist, also known as an ear, throat, and nose doctor (ENT), who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of nasal obstruction.

How Can VivAer® Help Nasal Obstruction?

The VivAer® Nasal Airway remodeling procedure is an innovative technology that expands nasal passages. This non-invasive, safe treatment can significantly improve your quality of life and allow you to breathe easier.

After numbing the inside of your nose with a local anesthetic, your doctor will insert a small wand into the nasal passage. The low-temperature radiofrequency energy (RF) on the wand’s tip gently expands and remodels damaged or shrunken tissues and valves. With this procedure, doctors can also shrink turbinates, soft bony structures that often swell during cases of nasal allergies. Just a slight increase in surface area with the help of VivAer® can create significant relief and improve airflow for those suffering from chronic nasal obstruction.

What Are the Benefits of VivAer® for Nasal Obstruction?

There are a variety of benefits of the VivAer® procedure, including:

  • Non-invasive procedure: VivAer® involves no cutting and doesn’t damage any surrounding areas.
  • Comfortable treatment: Most people feel minimal to zero discomfort. Some describe a feeling of pressure if anything.
  • Clinically Proven: Over a 2-year clinical study, 97% of patients experienced vast improvements in nasal breathing.
  • No downtime: This treatment is quick and painless, and most people return to regular activities the same day.
  • The outer appearance isn’t affected: As opposed to other nasal surgeries, VivAer® doesn’t alter the appearance of your nose in any way.

Who Is a Candidate for VivAer®?

If you suffer from chronic nasal obstruction, you are most likely a candidate for the VivAer® procedure. Candidates typically have found treatments like medications and nasal dilator strips to be ineffective. Your provider may suggest the Nasal Obstruction Symptom Evaluation (NOSE) test and the Cottle Maneuver test to confirm a diagnosis.

The Cottle Mannuever is a test you can do at home and involves placing two fingertips on your cheek next to each side of your nose, then gently pressing and pulling outward. If you find relief from your nasal passage expanding, VivAer® is likely an excellent treatment option. Depending on your specific condition, there may be other criteria, but your ENT can provide more information about whether VivAer® is suitable for you.

Find the Relief You Deserve from Nasal Obstruction

Don’t settle for another night of nasal airstrips or frustration while trying to breathe through your nose; contact a provider to learn if the VivAer® procedure is right for you. This non-invasive, comfortable treatment can expand your airway in just minutes. Find the relief you deserve, just in time for the holidays, at Excel ENT in Birmingham!

Excel ENT: Sinus Experts in Birmingham AL

If you are suffering from chronic nasal obstruction or another sinus ailment, contact the sinus experts at Excel ENT. With years of experience, Dr. Davis and his team are experts in nose, throat, and ear treatments. Call us at 205-988-6858 or contact us online to find the relief you deserve!

Chronic Cough: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatments

A girl experiencing a cough in a light purple sweater sitting on her couch.

This October, flu season, sinus infections, and other seasonal ailments are frequent as we head into the winter months. Many of us experience a cough along with these seasonal sicknesses, and it’s typically nothing to fret about.

But, when is it time to worry about a chronic cough? A cough that just won’t go away can be frustrating and can significantly impact your quality of life. A chronic cough can cause headaches and sleepless nights, and you may wonder if you’ll ever find relief from your pesky cough.

Fortunately, at Excel ENT, our speech-language pathologist, Amy Pittman, encounters many patients who suffer from chronic coughs. Learn more about chronic cough, its common causes, and how Excel ENT’s SLP can help you find a solution.

What is Chronic Cough?

Coughing can help you clear your throat, prevent infections and help protect your airway. But coughs can linger, lasting anywhere from 4 weeks in children and 8 weeks in adults. Usually, a chronic cough is dry and isn’t productive for your airway.

Common Causes of Chronic Cough

Chronic cough can be difficult to diagnose because there are several possible causes. Some of the most common causes include:

Asthma

When you have asthma, the muscles around your airways constrict. The lining of your airways swells, and your body produces thick mucus in response. Coughing is your body’s way of getting air into those tightened areas. Asthma can be triggered or worsened by infections, weather, stress, allergies, tobacco smoke, medications, exercise, and stress.

Postnasal Drip

One of the most common causes of chronic cough is postnasal drip. Runny mucus drops down your throat if a virus, allergies, dust, chemicals, or inflammation irritate your nasal membrane. The mucus in your throat causes you to cough, and you may experience worsening symptoms at night.

Infections

If you’ve recently recovered from a cold, flu, COVID-19, or pneumonia, your cough may remain while your body heals and recovers from the infection. These illnesses can lead to lung inflammation and a lingering cough. To heal itself, your body produces a dry cough to reduce the infection.

Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR)

Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) causes acid from the stomach to travel up the esophagus and into the throat. LPR is commonly confused with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), but if you’re suffering from LPR, you may experience more pain in your throat. LPR may result in many voice problems, like swallowing problems, sinus drainage, and chronic cough.

Irritable Larynx Syndrome (ILS)

Various symptoms, including chronic cough, chronic throat clearing, the feeling of a lump in your throat, and others can be caused by irritable larynx syndrome. In ILS, the larynx (voice box) becomes sensitive to stimuli, including cold air, talking, and more. Common causes of ILS are viral illness, allergies, sinusitis, certain medications, stress, and others.

Smoking

Smoking negatively affects your lungs, as well as the rest of your body. A chronic cough can be caused by the body attempting to clear out the chemicals that enter the airway and lungs from tobacco. If you stop smoking, you may find relief from your chronic cough and lead a healthier lifestyle.

Testing & Treatment for Chronic Cough

If you’ve been experiencing a cough for longer than 8 weeks, contact your primary care doctor. Regardless of potential causes, if you have a chronic cough that has not been explained or diagnosed, we recommend you seek medical care.

At Excel ENT, our SLP, Amy Pittman, will begin with a consultation to learn the comprehensive history of your chronic cough. For further diagnosis, she may perform a thorough laryngoscopic and stroboscopic examination to examine patterns of vocal fold motion and vocal fold vibration.

Find Relief at Excel ENT

At Excel ENT, we can work to find out what triggers your cough so you can find the relief you deserve. Treatments can vary from medication changes to treatment for medical conditions, such as allergies, asthma, or LPR if those trigger your chronic cough.

The goal of treatment for chronic cough is to give you the tools to manage it better and improve your quality of life, and Amy can teach you more about keeping your vocal cords healthy.

Schedule an Appointment for a Chronic Cough Consultation

Proudly serving the Birmingham area, our team can provide treatment for various ear, nose, and throat ailments. Call us at 205-988-6858 or contact us online to find relief today!

Audiology Awareness: Why Audiologists Help with More Than Hearing Aids

A smiling female audiologist treats an older woman wearing a mustard-colored shirt.

Today, people can buy many types of hearing aids and devices over the counter without ever seeing a doctor. While this may seem like a convenient option, you lose the ability to have your hearing device fitted to your ear, which may make the device less effective.

This October, celebrate National Audiology Awareness Month with Excel ENT by learning about the importance of audiologists and how they can help protect your hearing for years to come.

What Do Audiologists Do?

Audiology became a profession following World War II as our Veterans were returning home with hearing loss. As a result, the field of clinical audiology was formalized to aid many young, healthy soldiers who needed rehabilitation.

Today, the role of audiology continues to grow and expand. Audiologists specialize in all things related to hearing health, including diagnosing any hearing issues, offering treatment plans, managing and diagnosing balance disorders, and custom fitting hearing aids and hearing protection for newborns to senior adults.

As technology has progressed, we’ve been able to treat hearing loss better and better. However, there is still no replacement for natural, healthy hearing, but audiologists across the globe are working to create new and improved hearing models and forms of protection.

Why Are Audiologists Important for People With Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss is associated with a myriad of negative outcomes, such as:

  • Dementia
  • Social isolation
  • Balance issues
  • Cognitive decline

The best way to prevent these issues associated with hearing loss is to protect your ears from damage. The most effective way to protect your ears from harm is using properly fitting hearing protection. Custom hearing protection is more than just hearing aids; they’re an investment in your future hearing.

Custom Hearing Protection

While it may seem simple, hearing protection doesn’t function properly if not used correctly by the user. For example, most people do not properly insert foam ear plugs into their ear canal, making them almost useless. At Excel ENT, we are here to help you protect your ears and prevent hearing loss with custom hearing protection.

Custom hearing protection takes the guesswork out of proper fit, with the protection being molded individually to your ear. At EXCEL ENT, we offer two types of ear protection, active and passive.

Active

Our active hearing protection boasts a multitude of benefits, including:

  • Battery-powered
  • Rechargeable
  • Disposable Batteries
  • Apple and Android connectivity

While using active hearing protection, the device provides up to 30 dB amplification to hear what’s happening around you up to 22 dB NRR (noise reduction rating).

Passive

Passive hearing protection comes in two types for your unique lifestyle. These two types include

  • Filtered: We recommend filtered hearing protection for hunting, music, and other special situations.
  • Solid: Solid hearing protection is excellent for swimming, sleeping, and general use.

Make an appointment to have ear mold impressions made and discuss the different options for hearing protection. Project yourself from hearing damage today!

Custom Hearing Protection: Testimonials

Come and see our audiologists and have custom testing, custom fitting, and personalized settings for your hearing devices. Many patients at Excel ENT are already receiving the benefits from custom hearing protection.

When asked about his custom hearing protection, a patient said, “I am confident that I am maximally protected while still being able to hear conversations.” Another patient noted that her customer hearing protection is “so easy to insert and does an excellent job [protecting my hearing].” Discover the confidence and ease that comes along with custom hearing protection from Excel ENT!

Invest In Your Hearing Care at Excel ENT

Proudly serving the Birmingham area, our staff at Excel ENT is committed to your well-being. Receive custom testing, custom fitting, and unique settings for your hearing devices to protect your hearing and prevent any long-term effects from improper hearing protection. Call us at 205-988-6858 or schedule an appointment online today!

The Newest Hearing Device on the Market: Phonak Audéo™

A man video chats a woman through Phonak hearing device.

In today’s world, technology is constantly evolving. With new technologies, the multitude of options for hearing aids can feel overwhelming. It can be difficult to choose the device that will bring you the most comfort, security, and best sound quality. Thankfully, Phonak Audéo™ Lumity hearing aids combine clear, reliable hearing solutions with the latest technology features.

At Excel ENT our team welcomes growth and continual improvement of our patient’s hearing by embracing the latest and greatest technology. The most recent breakthrough in hearing technology involves the Phonak Audéo™ Lumity hearing aid. Learn more about this innovative hearing device and how our team at Excel ENT can help you benefit from cutting-edge technology.

Phonak Audéo™ Hearing Devices

For over 70 years, Phonak has been distributing life-changing hearing solutions for people in over 100 countries. Phonak hearing aids amplify sounds for the user, emphasizing sounds from specific directions, eliminating background noise, and compressing frequencies. Phonak boasts multiple kinds of hearing devices, each tailored to different kinds of hearing loss for optimal results. Discover Phonak’s latest device that delivers an unmatched hearing experience.

Phonak Audéo™ Lumity Hearing Aids: Benefits

Phonak’s already state of the art sound quality has been improved once again. The hearing aid’s all new Smart Speech feature allows for even better speech understanding and clarity in a variety of difficult listening situations. The Phonak Audéo™ Lumity hearing aids are available in a range of 8 colors, so you’re bound to find a shade that suits you. Beyond the range of colors, Phonak Audéo™ Lumity hearing aids host a variety of benefits.

Crisp Sound

Hear the sounds of the world, uninterrupted, in real-time. Phonak Audéo™ Lumity hearing aids have been scientifically engineered to deliver crisp, rich sounds.

Innovative Technology

Featuring the ActiveVent Receiver, the Phonak Audéo™ Lumity hearing aids automatically filter noise in hard-to-hear environments, or when streaming media, for optimized hearing and a naturalness to your own voice when speaking. Never struggle to hear in a noisy environment and enjoy exceptional sound when watching a movie with automatic, state-of-the-art sound technology.

Speech Understanding

It can be challenging to hear someone from far away, or if they speak softly. Thankfully, the Phonak Audéo™ Lumity hearing aids feature speech-enhancing technology so you can interact with friends, family, and others, without worrying about not hearing them.

Personalized Noise Canceling

If noise is coming from all sides of a room, the sound can feel overwhelming. With personalized noise canceling, Phonak Audéo™ Lumity hearing aid users can personalize noise-canceling settings at the drop of a hat.

Waterproof

Phonak Audéo™ Lumity hearing aids are waterproof and sweatproof in select models. Hearing devices that are fully waterproof not only allow you to participate in water activities, but also protect your device if you are prone to excessive sweating or live in a particularly rainy climate. The device can be submerged in up to 50cm, or 1.64 feet of water while delivering still crisp sound.

Amongst these features, Phonak Audéo™ Lumity hearing aids boast health tracking, connection to smartphones and TVs, and a rechargeable battery.

Connect with Phonak Audéo™

With the myPhonak app, users can control their hearing aids right from their mobile devices. There are a variety of features in the app, including remote control, support from your hearing care professional, capturing important health data, and providing status updates on your devices. Experience cutting-edge technology for full customization of your hearing device with the myPhonack app.

Phonak Audéo™ at Excel ENT

Take advantage of technological advances at Excel ENT. Discover crisper sound, customizable features, and stress-free hearing with Phonak Audéo™ Lumity hearing aids. Dr. Davis and his team can answer any questions you may have about fittings, models, and the next steps. Begin your journey to hearing the world uninterrupted today!

Learn More About Hearing Devices & Fittings at Excel ENT

Experience the benefits of technology like never before at Excel ENT. Technologically advanced hearing aids are a great option to consider, and Dr. Davis will work with you to determine what model is best for you. Schedule an appointment online, or call to discuss coming in at a time that’s best for you at 205-988-6858.

How To Deal With The Feeling That Something Is Stuck In Your Throat

Woman holding her throat and experiencing globus sensation.

There is nothing worse than the feeling that something is stuck in the back of your throat only to find there’s nothing physically there. This sensation, called globus sensation, can be alarming and frequently bothersome.

Most often, there’s no need to fret if you’re experiencing this feeling! Globus sensation is fairly common. Learn from our team at Excel ENT all about globus sensation and when it’s time to speak with a doctor.

What is Globus Sensation?

Globus sensation, also called globus pharyngeus, is the feeling of a blockage, or lump, in the back of the throat, even when there is no physical blockage. The condition used to be called globus hystericus, because doctors thought that people complaining of this sensation were “hysterical”. In today’s world, doctors are more knowledgeable about globus sensation. We now know that the symptoms are very real and that they can be caused by a physical or psychological issue in the body.

Globus sensation can be accompanied by soreness and swelling in the throat, persistent clearing of the throat, hoarseness, or a cough you just can’t shake. Globus sensation is a little different for everyone, and not all symptoms have to be present for the diagnosis of globus sensation.

What Causes Globus Sensation?

The most common causes of globus sensation are anxiety and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Usually, when a person holds back strong feelings or emotions, the sensation arises and becomes recurrent. Likewise, those dealing with GERD experience their stomach acid traveling up the food pipe and into the throat, which can cause globus sensation. Some other causes of globus sensation include medication side effects, enlarged thyroid gland, or cervical spondylitis. Other reasons for this sensation continue to be discovered, so if you’re experiencing a globus sensation, it’s never a bad idea to speak with a doctor.

How Can I Deal with Globus Sensation?

There isn’t a specific treatment for globus sensation, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options to ease symptoms. We recommend speaking with your doctor about evaluations for reflux or other potential causes of globus sensation. It may also be worthwhile to speak with a speech therapist about other treatment options for relaxing your throat.

When you encounter symptoms of globus sensation, swallow with or without water, yawn with your mouth wide open, and move your jaw up and down to help with discomfort. Additionally, drinking more water can help relax your throat and decrease the feeling of a mass.

When Should I see a Doctor About the Feeling that there’s Something Stuck in my Throat?

The sensation of a large lump in the back of your throat can be frightening as well as aggravating. If you are feeling an unexplained lump in your throat, we recommend you see a doctor for evaluation. Your provider will use a flexible endoscope that is passed through the nose to examine your throat and be able to provide treatment if necessary.

Find Relief from Globus Sensation

Our physicians at Excel ENT can help evaluate your symptoms and create a treatment plan for many throat conditions, including the globus sensation. There may be an explanation for your discomfort, and our qualified team of professionals is ready to help you get the treatment you deserve. With years of experience, our team of otolaryngologists are knowledgeable about providing quality, effective care.

Heal Voice & Throat Conditions at Excel ENT

Proudly serving the Birmingham area, our team can provide treatment for a variety of ailments, specializing in ear, nose, and throat conditions. Call us at 205-988-6858 or contact us online to find relief today!

 

Cutting Edge Biologic Options for Sinus Problems

biologics

Over the years, we have made many strides in improving the way we are able to treat sinus issues. One common problem that has continued to be a challenge is treating chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyposis (nasal polyps). 

When it comes to these conditions, it is possible that the future of better disease control may involve the use of biologics, and we’re thrilled to have these new options for our patients at Excel ENT.

The Basics of Biologics

Biologic response modifiers are a class of medications that treat conditions such as nasal polyps by targeting specific components of an individual’s immune system. They can modify the chemical responses of the immune system that are causing inflammation thought to be responsible for the growth of nasal polyps.

Biologics are made from living cells. Unlike many other pharmaceutical drugs, they are not synthesized chemically or from plants. They also don’t typically come in the form of a tablet but as a solution that has to be injected.

Biologics can be antibodies, enzymes, hormones, or other types of biologic components or cells (even viruses). Vaccines and insulin are types of biologics that have been available for many years.

Dupixent (dupilumab) is a biologic approved for the treatment of nasal polyps in the U.S., and it’s one that we’ve been offering for a while at Excel ENT. Another new biologic option we have is called Nucala.

Things to Know About Biologics for Nasal Polyps

Focusing primarily on Dupixent, as it’s the biologic option we’ve been offering the longest, here are some of the details we want our patients to know about.

Administered via injection

Biologics involve an injection. We will teach you how to do this, and you will either give yourself a shot or have a family member give you the injection. While there may be some discomfort with this, it often decreases over time. Injection site reactions, such as pain, redness, or swelling can be easily treated using cold or hot pads and over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen.

Possible side effects

As with all medications, biologics used for the treatment of nasal polyps may have side effects that inhibit their use by certain individuals. As with almost all medications, it is possible to have a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Signs of this type of reaction may include swelling of the face and lips, difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, and wheezing.

When common side effects occur, they often improve on their own over time as you continue your treatment. These side effects might include injection site reactions, eye inflammation, increased white blood cell counts, sore throat, stomach problems, cold sores, joint pain, insomnia, and toothaches.

Not the best option for everyone

Dupixent is untested in individuals under the age of 6 for any use; it is approved only in individuals over the age of 18 for the treatment of nasal polyps. Women who are pregnant, those who wish to become pregnant, or those who are breastfeeding should not consider biologics for nasal polyps since they are also untested in these individuals. 

Your insurance might cover biologics

Your health insurance might require that you provide ample documentation if you are prescribed a biologic. We will work with you to provide any necessary documentation required by your insurance company. Even though there may be extra steps in the process, many companies ultimately cover the medications.

Additionally, many drug companies including the manufacturer of Dupixent offer assistance to people wanting to try new options. Copay cards or other programs may reduce the cost of the medication for individuals who apply.

Find Out If Biologics Are a Possibility for Treating Sinus Problems at Excel ENT of Alabama

Biologics are a cutting edge option that will only continue to grow when it comes to treating sinus problems, such as rhinosinusitis and nasal polyps. It’s a great option to consider, and Dr. Davis will work with you to determine if it’s a viable option in your case. Schedule an appointment online, or call to discuss coming in at a time that’s best for you: 205-988-6858.

Dangers of Earbud & Earpod Use

dangers of earbuds

From teenagers and adolescents to working adults, everyone is using either earbuds or earpods these days. These options are like tiny speakers that fit inside the ears, and while they are convenient and useful, there are some concerns when it comes to your ears and your hearing. 

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, and it’s the perfect time to address this topic, especially since kids are getting out of school for the summer. They will be looking for ways to keep themselves entertained, and they may be using these products more often.

Dangers of Earbuds & Earpods

The dangers with these products revolve primarily around listening to music that’s too loud and doing so for too long. 

These are the two main concerns:

Otitis Externa

This is an ear infection in the ear canal, commonly called “swimmers ear,” and the condition can be caused by repeated, frequent use of in-ear headphones. Options that seal off the ear to eliminate airflow are especially concerning as these can increase the risk of otitis externa. It can be a very painful infection that may require medical treatment.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Sounds at 78 to 132 decibels (dB) have the potential to cause damage to the delicate hair cells that respond to the sounds we hear. This damage can show up as tinnitus (ringing) and/or hearing loss (difficulty hearing and understanding what is said). The louder the sound, the less time it takes to damage your hearing.

Earpods can reach levels of 102 to 112 dB. At levels that high, damage to your hearing can occur in as much as 30 minutes to as little as 2 minutes. As many as one in five teenagers already have noise induced hearing loss from exposure to loud sounds. This is 30% higher than 20 years ago.

Signs that what you’re listening to is too loud:

  • You must raise your voice to be heard
  • You can’t hear or understand someone that’s three feet away
  • Speech around you sounds muffled or dull after you leave the noisy area
  • You have pain or ringing in your ears after you hear the noise (tinnitus) that lasts for a few minutes or a few days

How to Protect Hearing When Using Earbuds or Earpods

During the month of May and throughout the summer, be sure that what you are listening to and what your children are listening to is not too loud. For kids especially, the time they spend each day using earbuds or earpods should be limited. 

Here are some specific things you can do to protect your hearing:

  • Frequently wash earbuds with rubbing alcohol and allow them to dry completely before putting them back in the ear.
  • Use bone conduction headphones that leave the ear open and do not create an environment that’s ideal for infections to grow.
  • Set a volume limit on phones or tablets to reduce your exposure to loud sounds.
  • Take a break from listening to music with earbuds or earpods.
  • Give your ears time to rest and recover from exposure to sound so you will avoid hitting that “maximum noise dose” that puts you at greater risk for hearing loss and tinnitus.
  • Wear earplugs when around loud sounds, such as when you are doing yard work, going to concerts, sporting events, and more.
  • Consider having custom earplugs made that are more comfortable than standard foam ear plugs.
  • Get an annual hearing test or a baseline test so you can track your hearing health.

Check Your Hearing or Address Hearing Problems at Excel ENT of Alabama

Remember that there is no cure for hearing loss or tinnitus, so it’s crucial that you protect your hearing starting as early as possible. You want your hearing to last a lifetime! If you’d like to schedule a hearing test or baseline test, we can help you with that at Excel ENT. Schedule an appointment online, or call to discuss coming in at a time that’s best for you: 205-988-6858.

Q-Tips & Ears: Good or Bad?

q-tips in ears

Keeping cotton swabs, such as Q-tips, in the bathroom to clean out your ears is very common, and many people think this is a necessary task, but it’s one that carries significant risks. 

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, the use of cotton-tipped swabs or other home instruments pose a serious risk of damage to the eardrum and ear bones. When you use cotton swabs, you can accidentally damage your ears, and the most common cause of eardrum rupture is from trauma such as this. 

Instead, you should visit your doctor for an assessment if you experience uncomfortable symptoms, such as

  • Ear fullness
  • Hearing loss
  • Discomfort
  • Itching
  • The feeling of too much wax buildup

At Excel ENT, we will be able to help you with these issues in an appropriate manner. We can look inside your ear and safely remove wax, which is always the best course of action. Read on to learn more!

Q-Tips to Remove Earwax: FAQs & Dangers

We do know that earwax can be pesky. In some cases, too much earwax may cause hearing problems, itching, dizziness, and discomfort. However, you do not need to routinely clean out your ears. In most cases, earwax is actually healthy and protective for the ear. Earwax helps protect against infections, dry skin, and unwanted dirt and debris. 

What are the dangers of using a Q-tip to clean the ears?

Using cotton swabs or other instruments at home to clean your own ears can cause serious problems, such as:

  • Rupturing the eardrum – The most common cause of eardrum rupture is injury to the ear, typically occurring as a result of using cotton swabs or other instruments in the ear at home. This is painful and can lead to hearing loss and infections. 
  • Infection – Using a cotton swab in your ear can introduce bacteria, dust, and dirt into your ear and lead to ear infections. 
  • Pain – Even if you don’t fully rupture your eardrum, you can cause damage like scratches and inflammation. Cotton swabs also tend to push wax further into the ear canal, which will make the discomfort worse. 
  • Getting material stuck in the ear – Cotton material from swabs can get lodged and stuck in the ear. This can also cause hearing loss, infections, and discomfort. You will also likely need a doctor’s visit to remove it. 

How often should I clean earwax from my ears?

Most people do not need to routinely clean earwax from their ears. Our ears are normally “self-cleaning,” since earwax traps dirt and debris and slowly pushes it out. Here, it dries and falls out on its own. This helps prevent particles from getting in our ears and also prevents infection.

Why should I be so worried about my eardrum?

When using a cotton swab, you can easily reach your eardrum. But because the eardrum is so delicate, it can be easily ruptured with even gentle pressure from a swab. The pain is severe, and the ear may also leak a clear fluid. While a punctured eardrum will heal, it can take a while and can even lead to conductive hearing loss.

How should I clean my ears? 

As mentioned above, your ear typically does a great job of cleaning itself. In most cases, the ear canal does not need to be cleaned. During routine hair washing or showers, enough water enters the ear canal to loosen wax that has accumulated, and it typically loosens and falls out . on its own while you are asleep. If you’d like to clean your outer ear, also known as the pinna, occasionally you can use just a little soap, water, and a washcloth while you shower. Be very gentle. 

Let Excel ENT of Alabama Help With Issues Related to the Ears, Nose, and Throat

Whether you are dealing with earwax build-up, hearing troubles, or ear pain, our specialists at Excel ENT of Alabama can help. We have experts who can treat other issues related to the nose and throat as well. Schedule an appointment online, or call to discuss coming in at a time that’s best for you: 205-988-6858.

What to Do About Frequent Throat Clearing

throat clearing

We all clear our throats sometimes without giving it much thought. We may do it to get someone’s attention, to clear our throats of mucus or the feeling that something’s stuck, or it may be a nervous habit.

While there are several reasons for throat clearing, when it becomes a chronic occurrence, it can cause problems, including damage to your vocal cords. 

So what are the underlying causes of chronic throat clearing, and what can we do about it?

Why We Clear Our Throats & When It Becomes a Problem

When we clear our throats, we are transferring mucus out of our airway and into the throat. It’s normal for us to secrete up to two liters of mucus per day! Throat clearing can become excessive when mucus is too thick or copious. 

When this throat clearing process happens over and over again, it can cause redness and swelling of your vocal cords. If the clearing is very extensive, small growths called granulomas can form. If these granulomas get large, they can affect your breathing and your voice and may require surgery for removal. 

In addition, the irritation and swelling produced by chronic throat clearing can cause even more mucus production, which causes more throat clearing. As you can see, it can become a never ending cycle. Without a conscious effort to break the cycle, chronic throat clearing will likely continue. 

What Conditions Can Cause Chronic Throat Clearing?

Keep in mind that chronic throat clearing itself isn’t really a diagnosis. It’s a symptom of an underlying condition. Some of those might include:

1. Reflux

Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) is a condition in which stomach acid escapes out of the stomach and goes into the esophagus and throat. The acid irritates the throat, the vocal cords, and even the nasal passages. It may result in voice problems, swallowing problems, sinus drainage, and the frequent need to clear the throat. The most effective treatment is usually a combination of medication and lifestyle changes, such as avoiding certain types of food and drink, reducing stress, and losing weight.

2.  Postnasal drainage

Another common cause of throat clearing is postnasal drainage, also called postnasal drip. Postnasal drip happens when your body starts producing extra mucus. You may feel it dripping down your throat from the back of your nose. Other symptoms may include cough, nausea, sore throat, and bad breath. Allergies are a common cause, along with viral infections, sinus infections, dry air, and changes in the weather.

Treatment for postnasal drip varies depending on the cause. If it’s related to allergies, avoiding the allergen or taking medications may stop the drip. Other treatments may include over-the-counter decongestants, antihistamines, saline nasal sprays, and staying hydrated.

3.  Allergies

Nasal allergies and food allergies can contribute to frequent throat clearing. In some cases, a food allergy or sensitivity may cause a tickling in your throat that makes you clear it. Dairy is a frequent cause, but foods such as eggs, rice, and soy may also be culprits. The treatment in such cases is avoiding the food that leads to symptoms.

Nasal allergies occur when the body’s immune system overreacts to the presence of substances, called allergens, that are usually harmless. Common allergens include pollen, dust, and animal dander. Nasal allergies can lead to excess mucus production, which can cause frequent throat clearing. Antihistamines, nasal sprays, and nasal rinsing can help with allergies, as well as avoiding the allergens when possible.

4.  Side Effect of Medication

Some blood pressure medications can cause a tickle in your throat that contributes to chronic throat clearing and chronic cough. If you’re taking blood pressure medication and are frequently clearing your throat, talk to your doctor about a potential substitute.

5.  Habit

Sometimes, there may be no underlying condition causing throat clearing. It can become a habit or something you subconsciously do when anxious or stressed. To break the habit, you can drink more fluids, ask someone to help you monitor your throat clearing, or look for an alternate activity to do when the need to clear your throat arises, such as tapping your fingers. Stress management can also be very helpful.

6.  Swallowing Problems

Swallowing problems can arise for many reasons, and there are many ways to address them, depending on the exact situation. In general, difficulty swallowing can lead to throat irritation and frequent throat clearing as well as hoarseness, coughing, and choking when eating.

7. Vocal Cord Growths

When abnormal growths, such as polyps, nodules, or cysts grow on the vocal cords, you may feel as though something unusual is in the back of the throat. If you do not know that this is a physical growth, you may try to clear your throat in an attempt to dislodge the perceived object.

Causes of these growths can include smoking; allergies; overusing or straining the vocal cords from excessive singing or shouting; and frequent or strenuous coughing.

Treatment for Chronic Throat Clearing

Long-term treatment for chronic throat clearing depends on determining the underlying condition causing it. Treatment may include lifestyle changes, medications, or, in some cases, surgery.

Here are a few general tips for the treatment and prevention of chronic throat clearing:

  • Drink plenty of water to keep the throat moist, which may relieve or lessen the feeling that something has become lodged in the throat. When you feel like you want to clear your throat, take a sip of water instead. Also, increase your water intake to help thin mucus and make it easier to swallow.
  • Eat and chew slowly if you have difficulty swallowing.
  • Use a humidifier to keep the air moist, which may help reduce throat irritation.
  • Clear your throat as few times as possible. Instead of clearing your throat, hold your breath and swallow.

Find the Cause of Chronic Throat Clearing at Excel ENT of Alabama

Our Speech-Language Pathologist, Amy Pittman, is an expert at working with patients to find the cause of chronic throat clearing and treating the underlying condition. Schedule an appointment online, or call to discuss coming in at a time that’s best for you: 205-988-6858.

Lingering Loss of Smell After COVID-19? Here’s What to Do

covid-19 loss of smell

Smell is one of our five senses that we often think little about even though it’s strongly linked to emotion and memory. It can alert us to danger and works with our sense of taste to allow us to experience the flavor of food.

To lose your sense of smell (also called anosmia), and most likely your sense of taste to some extent as well, can pose several challenges, both mentally and physically. The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on anosmia, and doctors and scientists are still trying to figure out more about this common symptom.

Here’s information about why COVID-19 may cause us to lose these senses and some advice about how to manage it.

Loss of Smell After COVID-19 Infection

Many people wonder how common this symptom really is. A recent study collected data regarding COVID-19-related loss of smell or taste from 69,841 individuals who self-reported symptoms. The findings provide a genetic link to the biological mechanisms underlying COVID-19-related loss of smell or taste.

Of those who reported a positive test, 68% said they experienced loss of smell or taste (47,298 out of a total of 69,841 individuals). Female respondents were more likely than male respondents to report this symptom and those with this symptom were typically younger than those without it (mean age of 41 years for those with loss of smell or taste versus 45 years for those without).

While we can clearly see that a large fraction of COVID-19 patients report loss of smell or taste, the underlying mechanism is unclear. The most likely cause is that damage occurs to the cells that support and assist the olfactory neurons, called sustentacular cells. These cells can regenerate from stem cells, which may explain why smell recovers quickly in most cases.

Most often, smell dysfunction does improve soon after the infection. Approximately 90% of those affected can expect improvement within four weeks. But for others, it can take months or recovery may be incomplete. 

Tips to Help Recover Sense of Smell

Currently, there is no proven treatment for lasting smell dysfunction. Topical corticosteroid sprays are often used in the short-term for treatment, but they are unlikely to help outside of the acute illness period. 

One type of treatment that has shown promise is smell retraining therapy, or olfactory retraining. This involves exposing the patient to different strong scents for several minutes for an extended period of time. Smell retraining therapy can be effective for many different causes of smell loss, and not just from COVID.

Typically, you will smell a series of four strong scents that can be found in the home, or in the form of essential oils. Each scent is gently sniffed for 20 seconds. This process is repeated three times daily for six weeks. Long-term commitment is usually required to see improvement.

Smell training may be most effective if you work on the same four scents each day, rather than alternating. It’s also recommended that you concentrate on the scent fully, giving it your full attention, for the entire 20 seconds.

The following scents often work well:

  • ground coffee
  • rose
  • citrus
  • eucalyptus
  • vanilla
  • clove
  • mint

Another good option to consider is ginger, powdered or raw. It has a distinctive, pungent scent that makes it beneficial for use in smell training. Drinking ginger tea may also help. It can help reduce inflammation in the nasal airways and reduce excess mucus formations that block nasal passages, which may be a factor in loss of smell.

If you are unable to smell the above essences at all, try remembering what they smell like. Our brains are powerful tools and may be able to engage your senses. It does take time and commitment, but many people notice an improvement in their ability to smell within a few weeks.

Nasal irrigation can also sometimes help by flushing out allergens and mucus from the nasal cavity. This may help in COVID cases, but it can also help when other common viral upper respiratory illnesses, such as the common cold, cause dysfunction with the sense of smell.

Get More Advice About Correcting Loss of Smell from Excel ENT of Alabama

While these are methods you can try at home to help recover your sense of smell, it can be a good idea to work with an ENT, such as Dr. Davis from Excel ENT of Alabama to come up with a more specific treatment plan. We are happy to offer additional advice and options. Schedule an appointment online, or call to discuss coming in at a time that’s best for you: 205-988-6858.