The Important Role of the Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist
While only a relatively small proportion of adults tend to require the services of an ear, nose and throat specialist, this is anything but the case with young children. In practice, infections affecting one or the other of these three areas rank among the most common reasons for a child to require a visit to a doctor’s surgery during the first three years of his or her life. In fact, paediatric otorhinolaryngology, to give the discipline its formal title, has grown to become a specialised field of its own, and one that also covers the treatment of conditions affecting the head and the neck.
Called upon to be both a surgeon and a physician, as the needs of their patient’s dictate, the services of an ear, nose and throat specialist are often required in the investigation of hearing loss. Often, the condition is a temporary one arising from a transient cause, such as an ear infection. Nevertheless, although most such infections tend to respond well to antibiotics that also see normal hearing fully restored, in some cases, the condition can become chronic. This is a development that, if not treated promptly, can soon result in varying degrees of permanent deafness.
While an experienced audiologist is perfectly capable of recognising the signs of both acute and chronic infections affecting these areas, he or she is not qualified to treat them. Therefore, the quicker a chronic patient is referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist for treatment, the better the chances of saving or, at least, of minimising the damage to his or her hearing will be.
That ear infections are so much more common in the young is not that hard to explain. Not only are a child’s Eustachian tubes far narrower and shorter than those of an adult, but they are also more horizontal. This makes it more difficult for them to rely on gravity for drainage and therefore creates a handy breeding ground for stray microorganisms. To counter this problem, a simple surgical procedure known as a myringotomy, in which the eardrums are perforated and soft grommets inserted to provide drainage, is the most common intervention.
Persistently swollen tonsils and adenoids may also be at the root of a problem that could, ultimately, lead to hearing loss. Both act as reservoirs of infection and, when swollen, can often compress the Eustachian tubes. In such cases, the ear, nose and throat specialist may decide to surgically excise the offending inflamed structures.
If you happen to be a patient at one of our flagship clinics, the often quite lengthy process of arranging a referral can be avoided altogether. Our major centres offer the services of a resident ENT surgeon who is in a position to follow up on any patient who may be identified by one of the other healthcare professionals on the team as appearing to be in need of further investigation.
Resident ear, nose and throat specialists at our flagship centres provide a valuable addition to the services offered in our other clinics. These include advanced audiological testing, investigation of balance disorders and tinnitus, the sale and fitting of hearing aids, and products for effective hearing protection.