Category: Ear

Why Do My Ears Feel Clogged? Top 5 Causes

A woman in a white shirt putting a finger into her ear, representing clogged ears.

Why Do My Ears Feel Clogged? Top 5 Causes

If your ears feel clogged, stuffy, congested, or any other sensation of pressure, we understand it can be quite a nuisance. You may experience troubled hearing, crackling noises, and even discomfort. If you’re looking to diagnose and treat your pesky ear congestion, you’re in luck!

The team at Excel ENT breaks down the top seven causes of ear stuffiness and what you can do to find relief. Fortunately, no matter the cause of your ear congestion, a home remedy or doctor-prescribed medication can likely help. Keep on reading to find out what’s causing clogged ears and what treatment is right for you!

Eustachian Tube Dysfunction

The eustachian tubes connect the ear to the throat and, when working correctly, drain fluid and mucus from the back of the ear to the throat, where it’s swallowed naturally. But, if the tube is swollen or damaged, fluid can build up in the tube. This build-up can be caused by numerous culprits like the common cold, flu, allergies, respiratory infections, and sinusitis, leading to feelings of pressure and stuffiness.

If you’re just getting over an illness, eustachian tube dysfunction may be to blame for your ear congestion. We recommend over-the-counter decongestants and antihistamines to treat this odd sensation. If your symptoms persist, you may need antibiotics or ventilation tubes, so don’t hesitate to visit your local ENT for treatment.

Middle Ear Infection

Ear infections, called otitis media, are characterized by fluid or infection in the middle ear. Ear infections can be uncomfortable and cause fever, ear drainage, trouble sleeping, and other unwanted symptoms. As we mentioned above, ear infections can cause eustachian tube dysfunction, which can cause feelings of pressure too.

If symptoms are mild, at-home remedies and OTC medications may be sufficient. But, if symptoms persist for more than two days, you should seek medical care. An experienced ENT can diagnose any problems and offer treatments like ear drops or antibiotics.

Earwax Buildup

Earwax can quickly build up inside your ears and lead to clogged and stuffy ears. If your ears are full of earwax, you may experience pain, feeling of fullness, hearing loss, and even infection. While cleaning your ears with a Q-tip may seem tempting, Q-tips can push the earwax deeper into your ear, which can cause serious problems and leave clogged ears as the least of your worries.

Instead, we recommend flushing your ears. You may be able to do this at home with steam therapy, but to ensure the job is done right, we advise you to visit a local ENT who can safely and effectively remove your pesky earwax.

Hearing Loss

Sometimes, hearing loss can feel as though your ears are clogged. While the sensation may feel different for everyone, stuffy, clogged ears may indicate the outer and middle parts of your ear cannot carry sounds into your inner ear, which is where the magic of hearing happens. You may feel this sensation in one or both of your ears, but it usually occurs suddenly and worsens over time.

If you’re experiencing clogged ears seemingly without cause, you should seek medical treatment. You may be experiencing age-induced or noise-related hearing loss, or there may be a more severe problem behind your ear congestion. Luckily, a trusted audiologist can diagnose, treat, and help you manage hearing loss.


Persistent ringing, buzzing, clicking, or hissing noises in the ear is called tinnitus. This condition usually develops because of damage to the microscopic nerve ending in the inner ear. However, ear infections, allergies, head or neck injuries, muscle spasms in the inner ear, and certain medications can contribute to the odd sounds too. Tinnitus caused by ear infections and muscle spasms specifically can cause sensations of fullness and congestion in the ears.

Depending on the cause of your tinnitus, there may or may not be a treatment. While you and your ENT work to find a specific reason, we recommend avoiding exposure to loud noises, excessive amounts of caffeine, and lowering your sodium intake. These tips may be able to lessen the severity of your tinnitus.

Find Relief from Clogged Ears Fast

At Excel ENT, we’re here to help you find the cause of your congested ears. We understand it can be annoying to deal with daily, and we don’t hesitate to exhaust all possible solutions so you can find relief. Depending on the cause of your ear congestion, we offer numerous treatments like medications, ear flushing, ear drops, and more. With years of experience, we can help you get back to normal quickly!

Your Ear & Hearing Experts: Excel ENT

Proudly serving the Birmingham metro area, our team can evaluate, diagnose, and treat various ear, nose, and throat ailments. Call us at 205-386-6453 or contact us online to live to find relief from clogged ears!

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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.

Speech and Hearing Rehabilitation: Conversations with Excel ENT Experts

speech and hearing rehabilitation excel ent birmingham al

While many ENTs offer services related to speech and hearing, at Excel ENT of Alabama, we offer something that’s a little unique, which is full speech and hearing rehabilitation. But why might someone need these services?

At the very heart of the matter is the word “rehabilitation,” which means to restore abilities through training or therapy. Rehabilitation can be used alongside or instead of other treatments, such as medication or surgery. Some disorders do well with therapy only, and others respond well to a combination of rehabilitation and medical treatment.

To learn more about what’s involved with speech and hearing rehabilitation, we sat down with Excel ENT Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), Amy Pittman, and our audiologist, Dr. Helen Lee Miles, to ask them a few questions.

Speech Rehab at Excel ENT: A Conversation with Amy Pittman, SLP

What’s different about what you offer at Excel ENT? 

While most ENT physicians have the capability to view someone’s throat and vocal cords with a small endoscope, few partner with a speech-language pathologist to provide a holistic approach that includes both medical/surgical and rehabilitative interventions. Addressing all aspects of a voice disorder can be crucial. For this reason, we have had many patients drive here from hours away, even from other states!

What are some reasons or conditions that might cause someone to need speech rehab? 

Many conditions can cause speech problems, but I specialize in voice disorders. Voice disorders are most often caused by swelling, irritation, or growths on the vocal cords, or problems with coordinating respiratory or laryngeal musculature.

What’s typically involved in terms of evaluation, procedures, and therapy? 

A first step in evaluating a voice disorder is to take a look at the vocal cords themselves. We want to make sure the voice problem isn’t a result of something medically serious, and we also want to determine whether medication or surgery is required. We interview the patient to help us identify the problem and come up with a treatment plan. The duration of voice therapy varies, but it often only takes a few sessions to achieve significant improvement.

What is a strobe voice evaluation, and why might it be needed? 

Stroboscopy refers to a specialized method of examining the vibrating vocal cords, which are too fast for the naked eye to see. A bright flashing light lasting a fraction of a second is used to illuminate the vocal cords, allowing us to evaluate their vibration in a detailed way.

What are the results of speech therapy typically like? 

The outcome really depends on the person and the nature of their condition, but most people see great improvement.

Why would you encourage a patient to go through speech therapy, and what are the biggest benefits or advantages? 

Many people achieve excellent results through voice therapy that they could not achieve any other way. Unlike medication or surgery, there are no risks or side effects. Some people are even able to avoid having surgery for vocal cord polyps or nodules by participating in therapy! Even if surgery is required, voice therapy can help patients learn ways to prevent problems from reoccurring in the future.

Hearing Rehab at Excel ENT: A Conversation with Dr. Helen Lee Miles

What is hearing rehabilitation? 

Hearing rehabilitation, referred to as aural rehabilitation, is the process of identifying hearing loss, providing counseling, managing the hearing loss through use of technology such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, or assistive listening devices; and implementing communication strategies to improve a patient’s overall health, ability to communicate with those around them, and their quality of life.

What are some reasons or conditions that might cause someone to need hearing rehab? 

Each hearing loss is different. It can be caused by aging, exposure to recreational or occupational loud noises, genetics, medications, diseases, and syndromes. Some hearing loss can be idiopathic, which means the cause is unknown. Hearing loss can also stem from a combination of these things. It is important to identify the type and degree of each hearing loss to determine the most appropriate intervention.

What’s typically involved in terms of evaluation, procedures, and therapy? 

Typically, the first part of rehab is the identification and diagnosis of hearing loss which is done through a full audiological evaluation including a hearing test to determine the type and degree of hearing loss. Next, patients must be educated on their hearing loss and the recommendations for “next steps.” 

If their hearing loss warrants hearing aids, we would then meet to discuss their needs and wants to determine the best options for them. Then the patient can be fit with hearing aids based on their audiometric results. From there, the patient will be taught about the use, features, and care of the hearing aids. 

It is really important for people to understand that this is a process and follow-up appointments are important to ensure patient understanding and to adjust the hearing aids as needed for optimal use. It is also important for the patient and their loved ones to be taught communication strategies to be used in conjunction with their technology.

Why would you encourage a patient to go through hearing therapy, and what are the biggest benefits or advantages? 

Hearing loss can be associated with isolation and depression. Aural rehabilitation can improve a person’s quality of life and give them the ability to more effectively communicate with those around them. It can help a person by allowing them to have more ease of  listening and keeping them engaged with the world around them. 

Hearing loss can also be associated with cognitive decline. Treatment of hearing loss is not going to prevent things such as cognitive decline or dementia, but it has been shown to delay onset of symptoms. People who have participated in aural rehabilitation are more likely to report overall better health! 

Discover how the team at Excel ENT of Alabama can help with speech and hearing rehabilitation.

If you have speech or hearing issues, both Amy and Dr. Miles are the absolute best, and they will be happy to help however possible. To schedule an appointment with one of our Birmingham ENT specialists, call us at (205) 988-6858, or send us an appointment request.

Get to Know Excel ENT of Alabama’s Newest Audiologist Helen Lee Miles

Excel Ent sinus surgery

Inspired by her aunt and uncle who were both audiologists, Helen Lee Miles fell in love with this field of work at a young age. She is our newest audiologist at Excel ENT of Alabama and specializes in adult and pediatric diagnostic evaluations. She also has a special interest in hearing aids and aural rehabilitation.

From day to day, Dr. Miles diagnoses and treats hearing and balance problems for people of all ages. Once she has a full understanding of your type and degree of hearing loss, she will discuss your results, next steps, and/or treatment options using our comprehensive list of audiology services.

Dr. Miles may also fit patients with hearing devices and assistive listening devices, and she specializes in education regarding hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance system dysfunction.

Learn More About Helen Lee Miles, Excel ENT Audiologist

With more knowledge about what an audiologist is, what they do, and how they help, get to know more about Dr. Miles.

What do you love most about your job at Excel ENT?

Getting to meet and getting to know various people and having conversations helps me help them. It brings me joy to help people function better in their everyday lives.

What is the most important thing for your patients to know about you, and what’s your passion? 

That I care about what they care about. I try to listen to where they are in their journey and find out what’s important to them. This allows me to help them reach their goals and get to a place where they want to be with their hearing.

Hearing aids and hearing aid fittings are my true passion. Patients come in frustrated, and I can help them change that. I can make a difference in their lives, and I love that!

When should a patient schedule an appointment with you, and what can they expect at a consultation?

If you are experiencing difficulties hearing or understanding when someone is speaking to you. Changes in hearing or asking others to repeat things is often an indicator that you may need to see me. Also, if you find that you are intentionally avoiding situations where you need to communicate with others, that’s a big red flag. 

At a consultation, I will examine the interior of the ears and do a full hearing test to discover the amount of hearing loss. If a hearing aid is appropriate, I ask questions to get to know the patient more and determine what is essential to them in a hearing aid, such as BlueTooth technology or having a rechargeable option. We will talk about our 30-day trial period that allows them to feel confident they are getting the right hearing aid. 

Personal Notes About Dr. Miles

Dr. Miles grew up in Phenix City, Alabama, and started her education as an undergrad at the University of Alabama, where she received her B.A. in Communicative Disorders. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with Honors and continued her education at the University of Memphis, where she earned her Audiology Doctorate. 

After getting married in March of 2020, she, her husband, and their chocolate lab moved to the Birmingham area. When not at work, Dr. Miles enjoys reading and painting. While she once thought she might want to be a teacher, that passion comes into her work every day as she teaches her patients about hearing loss, improved communication, and much more.

Discover how the team at Excel ENT of Alabama can help manage hearing problems, from minor to more serious conditions.

If you have hearing issues or think it may be time for a hearing test, Dr. Miles will be happy to help however she can. To schedule an appointment with one of our Birmingham ENT specialists, call us at (205) 988-6858, or send us an appointment request.

Frequently Asked Questions about hearing and hearing aids

Being fitted for hearing aids by Excel ENT of Alabama

FAQ’s About Hearing Aids


Did you know that people who need hearing aids wait an average of seven years before actually getting their hearing checked? This is primarily because of deeply held societal issues with the stigma behind looking “old” with a hearing aid.

In this blog, we share with you some of the Frequently Asked Questions our patients have regarding hearing and hearing aids. Hopefully, one of these questions will answer yours!

How do I know if I need to get my hearing checked?

This is a top FAQ as patients try to gauge just how bad their hearing should be before they come in and see our audiologist. Three reasonably common clues are: 

  1. Having a hard time hearing in business meetings
  2. Turning the television up really loud and/or turning on closed captioning
  3. More difficulty hearing children and women than men

How can hearing aids help with tinnitus?

Some hearing aids can provide relief for the ringing and buzzing tinnitus sufferers experience with tinnitus. White noise and other sounds (such as ocean waves, for example) can be programmed into hearing aids to provide tinnitus relief.

I can purchase hearing aids at big-box retailers for less money – why should I buy hearing aids from you?

There are several reasons why you should purchase your hearing aids directly from Excel ENT. A customized fitting for your hearing aid is crucial to optimum hearing success, and you won’t get this from mail order or big-box retailers. Basically, with hearing aids, there is no such thing as “one size fits all”!  

What can I expect during a hearing test appointment?

First of all, it is not painful at all! We will first sit down with you and ask some specific questions about the different challenges you’ve experienced. We will look inside your ears, possibly with a video device. You will go into a soundproof booth, and we will administer an audiometry test so that we can identify the frequencies you cannot or have difficulty hearing. 

Hopefully, the answers to these frequently asked questions give you the boost and encouragement you need to pick up the phone and make an appointment to come see us today!

Get a 30-day reduced cost trial today on hearing aids from ExcelENT of Alabama in Birmingham, AL

If you’re looking for a new hearing aid, don’t put off making an appointment. We can conduct testing and get you fitted with a hearing aid that meets your exact desires and goals. 

Enjoy hearing the TV again and listening to simple conversations with ease. Click here to schedule an appointment online, or call one of our caring office staff to discuss coming in at a time that’s best for you: 205-988-6858. 

We are centrally located in the Birmingham market, and we treat all types of issues dealing with the ear, nose, and throat. Patients rave about our results, and our compassionate clinical staff will resolve your problems with the utmost care and professionalism. Reach out to us today! 

Swallowing and throat problems: how they are found and treated?

Excel ENT patient with swallowing or voice problems

Swallowing & Throat Problems


Have you ever had the feeling of food getting stuck in your throat while eating? Do you have a habit of frequent throat-clearing? Or perhaps you even have choking spells, frequently late at night?

If you’ve experienced one of these situations, you’ve probably imagined the worst-case scenario: “Something is really wrong with me” or “I must have some horrible condition.”

Well, would you believe these types of scenarios are often related to swallowing disorders or voice problems? 

“Speech and swallowing are very complex and dynamic muscle activities that are often taken for granted,” according to Excel ENT’s Speech Pathologist Amy Schiwitz with Excel ENT, located in Vestavia Hills, Alabama. “What people imagine is a horrible problem that can be corrected by either simple repetitive treatments or minor surgeries to correct these issues.”

Swallowing problems

You will want to seek out assistance from a throat specialist if you are experiencing any of the following swallowing problems:

  • A feeling of food getting stuck
  • Coughing or choking while eating
  • Gurgling wet voice quality after swallowing food
  • Pain while swallowing
  • Inability to swallow

It is estimated that around 15 million Americans suffer from some type of swallowing problem.  

We realize that these swallowing problems can be scary, so we take your symptoms seriously. We will work hard to reassure our patients they are not alone! In most cases, swallowing problems are not serious. 

Voice issues

A voice specialist can help you when you are experiencing one of the following types of voice issues:

  • Trouble with the sound of your voice: 
    • Your voice cracks or breaks
    • Your voice cannot hit the highs and lows in your voice range anymore
    • Your vocal cords tire easily
    • Your voice sounds breathy, husky, or hoarse
  • Sensations in the throat, such as: 
    • A throat tickle, 
    • When your throat is dry, burns, aches, or is tight 
    • The feeling of a lump in the throat or a “frog in the throat”
    • Swallowing problems
    • Post-nasal dripping (nose fluids that drip down the throat)
  • Pain – dry, irritating cough; choking spells (often at night); ear or jaw pain
  • Other symptoms: difficulty breathing, frequent throat clearing, feeling of fullness in the neck muscles or glands in the throat, coughing up blood

If you are experiencing one of these types of issues, you are not alone. Approximately 7.5 million people in the United States have trouble using their voices, so it’s not as uncommon as you might think. A voice specialist knows exactly what to do to diagnose your exact problem and develop a treatment plan for you that will reduce or eliminate your voice issues.

How are swallowing problems and voice issues diagnosed?

The type of swallowing or voice issue you have is the determining factor in diagnosing the problem. Once our voice and throat specialist reaches this diagnosis, we can create a specialized treatment plan just for you.

We use some of the most state-of-the-art diagnostic procedures in the state of Alabama to determine the root cause of your issues. 

Swallowing problems and diagnostics

At Excel ENT, we use a very cool tool called the Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES). How it works: we place a very small endoscope in your nose, and Amy Pittman slips it down to the area just above your throat and larynx/upper airway. Using this tool, she gets the chance to time the speed and coordination of foods or liquids you swallow.

You’ll actually be awake for this straightforward procedure and will be in a seated position. Amy Pittman will spray your nose and throat with an anesthetic so you won’t even feel the endoscope going down. The process of slipping the endoscope down your throat is pretty fast. The test won’t even take more than an average of 20 minutes. Some patients report a feeling of mild discomfort or a gagging sensation, but the anesthetic usually prevents this.

She will probably give you something to swallow during this procedure. She will have you slightly change positions so that she can give you visual feedback on the problem. Her diagnosis is pretty fast after this procedure. You’ll likely know within the same appointment what the problem is.

Voice issues and diagnostics

As far as diagnosing voice and vocal issues, there are a variety of approaches that Amy will use to determine the origin of the issue you face. Here are just a few of the diagnostics that could make up the plan to discern the problem and develop a treatment plan:

  • Digital Strobe Voice Analyzer – this is where you speak into a microphone, and your voice then gets measured for different types of data we gather. 
  • Video stroboscopic evaluation – this is a painless endoscopic procedure that lets Amy look at your vocal cords from the inside and take a look at their motion and vibration when you speak. First, she will spray a numbing antiseptic in your nose and throat so you will not feel the scope. Then, she will insert the flexible scope through your nose and down to your vocal cords. That way, she can use the camera’s rapidly flashing light to see your vocal cords opening and closing in slow motion while you make different sounds as she instructs. The procedure only takes about a half-hour from start to finish, and it’s done right here in our offices. Patients sometimes report that the scope feels “weird,” but you won’t experience any pain because of the numbing antiseptic we use before the procedure.

So we’ve learned that I have a swallowing problem or a voice issue. So what’s next?

So with voice issues, we usually prescribe what we call “voice treatments.” When practiced enough over time, these are exercises that teach you to become aware of your vocal production. You can then exercise different ways of speaking to help your voice issue become minimized and eventually go away.

In much the same way as an athlete works out different muscle groups to excel at their sport of choice, you’ll actually be working out your larynx in the same kind of way! The duration and types of exercises will vary by patient and also from the kind of diagnosis you receive from the diagnostic procedures by which you were evaluated. Your result will be an improved way of “voicing” that doesn’t strain or cause undue stress on the vocal cords. 

Swallowing issues are treated based upon our findings from the FEES procedure you underwent. There could be a variety of different types of treatments for swallowing issues. For example, there might just be some foods that are triggering your swallowing problems and should be avoided in the future. Or maybe you’ll need to learn to position yourself differently while eating to prevent your swallowing issues. You may even need to avoid liquids with a certain thickness. There are many other potential remedies Amy might prescribe to assist you in overcoming your swallowing issues.

So now you know. Your swallowing and vocal issues don’t have to be a big, scary deal. With some simple diagnostic tests, evaluations from Amy and Dr. Davis, and prescribed treatments and exercises, you’ll have your swallowing and vocal issues resolved in no time at all!

Schedule a swallowing or vocal evaluation at Excel ENT of Alabama

Don’t put off making an appointment with ExcelENT’s Speech-Language Pathologist Amy Pittman if you are experiencing swallowing or voice problems. Together with Dr. Christopher Davis, Amy can diagnose your issue and get you back to normal in no time. Click here to schedule an appointment online, or call one of our caring office staff to discuss coming in at a time that’s best for you: 205-988-6858. 

We are centrally located in the Birmingham market in Vestavia Hills, and we treat all types of issues dealing with the ear, nose, and throat. Patients rave about our results, and our compassionate clinical staff will resolve your problems with the utmost care and professionalism. Reach out to us today! 

Buying the perfect hearing aids: things you never thought about asking

hearing aids fitted by the audiologist at Excel ENT of Alabama

Hearing Aids


You’ve resigned yourself to the fact that it’s time to get a hearing aid. You’re tired of having to turn captions on the TV so you can “hear” what they’re saying. You’re embarrassed to keep saying “what?” every time someone asks you a question. Hearing someone through their mask is almost impossible, as is listening to a conversation when there is any background noise at all.

So, congratulations on your decision to improve the quality of your life with a hearing aid! The only regret you’re going to have is that you didn’t choose to do it sooner. 

But when purchasing a hearing aid, where in the world do you even start? There are so many different decisions to be made, so many other brands to buy, and so many various features to consider. Will people be able to notice you have a hearing aid in? Will it have Bluetooth features that allow you to answer phone calls and listen to music through it too? Or do they make hearing aids with none of those newfangled things on them – just a simple hearing device?

Of course, our team at Excel ENT, including our audiologist, Dr. Helen Lee Miles, is here to help you make the right choice when it comes to the hearing aid that best suits your lifestyle and needs. 

We understand you probably don’t know what you don’t know. That’s why we’ve created a primer for you that outlines all the things you’ll need to consider when purchasing a hearing aid. Of course, we’ll be right with you every step of the way to evaluate what’s important to you and help you make the best selection. 

Are you a technology geek? You’ll be blown away at what some hearing aids can do.

Hearing aids these days are much more than just devices that allow for better speech understanding. You can do so many more things than you ever imagined with a variety of brands.  

Look for technology options such as:

  1. Listening to music through your mobile phone. The hearing aid in this scenario becomes like wireless headphones! 
  2. Many also allow you to make hands-free phone calls right from your hearing aids.
  3. Several of our hearing aid options allow you to stream crystal-clear stereo sound from the television directly to your ears — some allow this feature from up to 23 feet away!
  4. Many hearing aids come with apps that work from your mobile devices, allowing you to get real-time hearing aid adjustment in real-life environments (like restaurants, meetings, work, and school.)

Who knew, right? There are so many options to choose from, and Dr. Miles will help you choose the hearing aid that is best for your needs.

Your Hearing Aid Fitting

To ensure a proper fit for your hearing device, Dr. Miles will take measurements of your ear to determine the correct size for the in-ear receiver. She will use your audiogram (results from your hearing test) to assist in programming your hearing aids.

Once you try on your hearing aid, Dr. Miles will check for a good acoustic and physical fit. While speaking with Dr. Miles and testing out the sound, she will fine-tune the hearing aids. Her goal is to ensure that patients hear speech appropriately based on their hearing loss and are perceiving it well at a comfortable volume.

Get a 30-day hearing aid trial today from ExcelENT of Alabama in Birmingham, AL

During each week of your 30-day trial, you’ll come back to visit with Dr. Miles for a hearing aid tuning. Throughout your trial, you can test out each device to determine which is the perfect fit for your lifestyle and hearing needs.

If you’re looking for a new hearing aid, don’t put off making an appointment. We can conduct testing and get you fitted with a hearing aid that meets your exact desires and goals. 

Click here to schedule an appointment online, or call one of our caring office staff to discuss coming in at a time that’s best for you: 205-988-6858. 

We are centrally located in the Birmingham market and we treat all types of issues dealing with the ear, nose, and throat. Patients rave about our results, and our compassionate clinical staff will resolve your problems with the utmost care and professionalism. Reach out to us today! 


6 hearing aid myths debunked

Hearing device myths debunked by ExcelENT of Alabama

Hearing Aid Myths


“Hearing devices are only for old people.” “I hear just fine without a hearing aid.” “Hearing devices are expensive.” “Hearing aids never work well.” 

These are just a few of the many misconceptions surrounding hearing aids. Though millions of people experience hearing loss, the concept of wearing a hearing device remains fairly misunderstood. 

Below we debunk 6 common myths about hearing aids!

Myth 1: Hearing aids are only for old people. 

While this is one of the most common myths about hearing aids, it could not be further from the truth. Age-related hearing loss is common, but people of all ages experience hearing loss. In fact, more than 5 percent of the world’s population struggles with hearing loss. Hearing loss can be caused by aging, injury, illness, infection, and noise

Myth 2: My hearing isn’t bad enough for a hearing device. 

Do you struggle to hear conversations? Do people have to repeat themselves several times when talking to you? These are two common indicators of hearing loss. Believe it or not, even mild hearing loss can impact your day-to-day life. Hearing aids can assist people with mild to severe hearing loss. Take this quick quiz to determine if you have hearing loss. 

Myth 3: Hearing aids completely restore your hearing. 

Unfortunately, hearing aids are not designed to completely cure hearing loss but to minimize the effects of hearing loss. Modern hearing aids include a microphone that hears the sounds around you, an amplifier that increases the volume of the sounds, and a receiver that sends the sound signals into the ear. These components work together to improve your ability to hear and communicate. 

Myth 4: Hearing devices are bulky and ugly. 

Many people assume that wearing a hearing aid will be too noticeable because they are big and bulky. However, today’s hearing aids are considerably smaller and more discreet than ever before. 

Myth 5: Hearing aids are too expensive. 

The reality is that purchasing a hearing aid is an investment in your health and quality of life. While you may be tempted to purchase a less-expensive hearing aid online, you may do yourself more harm than good. It’s vital to see an audiologist for a hearing aid fitting in order to maximize your ability to hear. 

Excel ENT of Alabama values and complies with best practice guidelines for hearing aid fittings. New hearing aid technology is frequently introduced to the market boasting updates and changes in directional microphones, sound processing algorithms, noise reduction features, amplitude and frequency compression, and audio data transfer between hearing aids. However, the primary objective of a traditional hearing aid fitting is to ensure that the patient is receiving the appropriate amount of amplification for their hearing loss at each frequency. Trust us, the improved hearing that can result is worth the cost! 

Myth 6. Hearing devices are difficult to use. 

Yes, hearing aids can be difficult to use if you are not taught how to use them properly. When you are fitted for a hearing aid at Excel ENT of Alabama, our audiologist will walk you through how to properly wear and use your new hearing device. 

The truth is, hearing loss can greatly impact your quality of life, but you don’t have to suffer because of it. Appropriately-fitted and programmed hearing aids can provide patients with improved hearing. 

Dr. Helen Lee Miles will meet with you for a hearing aid consultation to discuss your preferences and to explain the different hearing aid styles and features. We’ll have you sitting back and smiling soon at how much more of the world you can hear!

Contact Excel ENT for a hearing device consultation

Excel ENT of Alabama is a proud provider of hearing aids from different manufacturers, such as Unitron, Phonak, and Resound, and in a variety of styles and strengths. Our audiologist will help you select the best hearing aid based on your type and degree of hearing loss and personal needs. Schedule an appointment for a hearing aid consultation with Dr. Miles today! 


Understanding noise-induced hearing loss

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Understanding Hearing Loss


Hearing loss is more common than you may think. In fact, more than 5 percent of the world’s population struggles with it. That includes 432 million adults and 34 million children.

While natural aging, injury, illness, and infection often cause hearing loss, one of the leading causes is noise-induced hearing loss. 

What is noise-induced hearing loss? 

You guessed it. Noise-induced hearing loss is simply caused by overexposure to loud noises. Attending concerts and music festivals, listening to your stereo or earphones too loud, shooting firearms, and working with power tools are common causes for hearing loss. Recreational activities like snowmobiling, boating, or setting off fireworks are also dangerous to your hearing health.  

Noise-induced hearing loss can happen immediately or gradually. Constant exposure to loud noises for significant periods of time will impact your hearing over time. However, it only takes a second for your hearing to be permanently damaged by something like the sound of a gunshot. 

How loud is too loud? 

Volume is measured in decibels (dB). Specifically, sounds under 85 dB are considered safe, while sounds over 85 dB can damage your inner ear. As you may expect, the louder the sound, the greater chances you have of developing hearing loss.  

While several decibel meter apps are available, most people cannot easily identify the decibel of all the sounds they are exposed to. Here are some common sounds and their estimated decibel measurements to give you a better idea: 

  • Normal conversation – 60 dB
  • City traffic – 88 dB
  • Noisy restaurant – 90 dB
  • Motorcycle – 97 dB
  • Chainsaw – 110 dB
  • Concert – 120 dB
  • Jet taking off – 140 dB

A ringing or buzzing in your ears is a clear indication that the sounds around you have been too loud. 

How to prevent noise-induced hearing loss

The good news is noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented. Hearing protection is a top priority for maintaining your hearing. While none of the following recommendations are foolproof, they will minimize our risk of experiencing hearing loss in the future: 

  1. Avoid noisy environments: Be aware of the noise around you. For instance, when attending a concert, avoid sitting close to the speakers and take breaks away from the music. 
  2. Turn your music down: Earphones pose some of the greatest risks to our hearing. Keep the volume below 60 percent of the maximum volume. Noise-canceling headphones are a great way to minimize the noise around you so you don’t have to turn the volume up too loud.
  3. Wear protective equipment: Whether you work in the music, construction, manufacturing, or another noisy industry, be sure you’re wearing the proper hearing protection, like earplugs or earmuffs, if you’re exposed to loud sounds consistently. Walmart usually carries foam earplugs and muffs in their hunting section. You can also get custom musician’s earplugs that filter out the bad noise but allow you to hear and appreciate the music. 

However, if you’re unable to prevent noise-induced hearing loss, you don’t have to live with it. 

Treating noise-induced hearing loss

Hearing devices and cochlear implants are commonly used to treat noise-induced hearing loss.  

A hearing device or aid is a small electronic device that you wear in or behind your ear. It amplifies some sounds so that you can listen, communicate, and participate more in daily communication. Selecting the right hearing device is the key to effectively treating your hearing loss. There are a variety of manufacturers, styles, and strengths available on the market. Our audiologist will meet with you for a hearing aid consultation to discuss your preferences and explain the different hearing aid styles and features. 

While hearing aids amplify sounds so they may be detected by damaged ears, cochlear implants bypass damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. The implant consists of an exterior microphone, a speech processor, a transmitter and receiver/stimulator, and an electrode array, which is a group of electrodes that collects the impulses from the stimulator and sends them to different regions of the auditory nerve. A cochlear implant does not restore hearing loss, but it can provide a useful representation of sounds and help patients understand speech. 

Discover how the team at ExcelENT of Alabama can help manage your ear, nose, and throat symptoms.

Contact ExcelENT of Alabama to discuss your symptoms and create a treatment plan.