ENT Frequently Asked Questions

An otolaryngologist, also known as an ENT physician, is a doctor with a medical specialty in diagnosing and treating adult and pediatric problems involving the ear, nose, and throat. Common issues treated by otolaryngologists include:

  • Ear infections
  • Ear wax removal
  • Sinus infections (sinusitis)
  • Chronic rhinitis
  • Allergies
  • Tonsillitis/tonsillectomy
  • Sleep apnea
  • Deviated septum/septoplasty
  • Tinnitus
  • Hearing loss and hearing aids
  • Nasal polyps
  • Vocal polyps/vocal cord nodules
  • Swallowing disorders
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Acid reflux/gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Woman with arms outstretched

ENT doctors look for a variety of issues that could be impacting the health or performance of the ear, nose, and throat. Next, they determine appropriate treatment options. 

Whether it’s loss of smell, sinus infection, heartburn, sleep apnea, or an ear infection, our ENT specialists will get to the bottom of the issue. Our medical team (led by Dr. J. Christopher Davis, certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery) has specialized knowledge in audiology, speech pathology, and rhinology.

Below we address frequently asked questions about these issues and how ENT services can help patients who are suffering from them. To schedule an appointment and discuss your concerns with a Birmingham ENT specialist, please use our contact form or call us at (205) 988-6858.

What causes an ear infection?

An inner ear infection is also called otitis media or OM. Ear infections occur when fluid gets trapped in the ear after a viral or bacterial infection.

Why does my child have so many ear infections?

Children under the age of three are particularly susceptible to ear infections because their Eustachian tubes are shorter and more prone to blockage. Additionally, children’s immune systems are not fully developed and are not strong enough to fight off all infections. Ear infections in children can be partly prevented by keeping them away from smoke and bacteria, never leaving them unsupervised with a bottle and testing for allergies. 

In some cases, children with chronic ear infections may need ear tubes (also called tympanostomy tubes, ventilation tubes, or pressure equalization tubes.) These are small plastic or metal cylinders surgically inserted in the eardrum to keep the middle ear open and prevent fluid from accumulating. If your child suffers from frequent ear infections, schedule an appointment with an ENT today.

What is the treatment for an ear infection?

Many ear infections go away in approximately a week. OTC pain medication, warm compresses, and ear drops can help soothe patients in the meantime. Antibiotics may be necessary in the event of a bacterial infection.

Does loud snoring mean I have sleep apnea?

Snoring is a common problem caused by the vibration of throat tissues during sleep. Snoring is often linked to a condition called obstructive sleep apnea, where a person’s breathing is very shallow and/or breathing stops periodically while they sleep. Snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea, but not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. In addition to snoring, the following are symptoms of sleep apnea:

  • Fatigue/grogginess
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth and sore throat
  • Restless sleep
  • Gasping or choking in your sleep
  • High blood pressure
  • Chest pain at night

Patients with sleep apnea carry a greater risk of high blood pressure, heart conditions, diabetes, and stroke. While lifestyle changes like weight loss, different sleeping positions, and a better diet can help, surgery may be necessary. CPAP machines and oral appliances like mouth guards are also popular sleep apnea treatment options.

What is gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD)?

GERD is a progressive form of acid reflux or “heartburn.” With GERD, stomach acid rises up through the esophagus and damages the larynx, resulting in discomfort and hoarseness. Aside from a surgical procedure, GERD treatments include antacids, keeping the head raised while sleeping, nutrition changes, and cutting out caffeine and alcohol.

What is a deviated septum? How is it treated?

The nasal septum is made up of cartilage and bone. The septum divides the nasal cavity into a right and a left side. . When the septum is deviated, , breathing can be difficult. An outpatient reconstructive surgery called a septoplasty can be performed to remove the deviated portions of bone and cartilage and help the patient breathe easier.

What causes a sinus infection?

Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinus cavities that causes them to get blocked and filled with fluid. This can be caused by a virus, bacteria or allergies. Did you know sinus infections are the most common chronic condition in the United States?. These sinus problems can escalate into obstruction of the nasal passages, congestion, pain, pressure, and drainage.

How is chronic sinusitis diagnosed?

When chronic sinusitis is suspected, we use a nasal endoscopy and/or a CT scan to get a better view of the nasal passages. If you are experiencing sinus pain, nasal drainage orcongestion and are considering an ENT consultation, start by taking our online sinusitis quiz.

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

If you are having a hard time hearing others speak, you find yourself turning up your television or music more than usual, or you have buzzing or ringing in your ears, it may be time to get your hearing checked with our audiologists.

There are different types and degrees of hearing loss, ranging from mild to profound. Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss. It relates to an issue with the way the hearing nerve functions, and it can be brought on by age, loud noise exposure or genetics. This type of hearing loss is often successfully treated with hearing aids. Conductive hearing loss is caused by something blocking sound from getting to the outer or middle ear, such as fluid or ear wax. Mixed hearing loss combines both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.

If you suspect your hearing is getting worse, schedule a hearing evaluation with us ASAP. Hearing aids are not one-size-fits-all, so we offer custom fit hearing aids in the Birmingham area. Contact us now to set up a quick and painless hearing screening, or take our hearing loss assessment online to begin.

What happens during an ENT exam?

Your appointment will be tailored to address your unique needs and symptoms. First, you will share your medical history and get a thorough examination of your ears, nose, and throat. A lighted instrument called an otoscope may be used to look into your ear canal, while an endoscope may be used for a better view of your nose and throat. Your provider will display the endoscopic image on a monitor so that you can better understand your condition. We want you to be as much a part of your treatment plan as we are! Therefore, it is important for us to always keep you in the know.  If indicated at your visit, a referral for allergy testing or blood work may be ordered.

When should I see an ENT doctor?

If you have any concerns about an ear, nose or throat issue we would be happy to evaluate you here at ExcelENT. As always, we recommend discussing your medical issues with your primary care doctor as well.

Do you take my insurance?

Please visit our patient resources page to view a list of the insurance policies accepted by Excel ENT of Alabama. To confirm insurance coverage, call us at (205) 988-6858.

What are your hours and location?

Excel ENT of Alabama is located at 2161 Valleydale Road in Birmingham. We are open Monday through Thursday from 8AM to 5PM, and Fridays from 8AM to noon. Contact us now to schedule your appointment with our experienced Birmingham otolaryngologists!

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