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Posted: Monday, August 25, 2014

Ear, nose and throat concerns

Otolaryngology can be a hard word to spell. It can be even tougher to correctly pronounce. It doesn’t exactly fall gently on the ear or roll easily off the tongue. For this reason, most otolaryngologists tend to stick to a description of their specialty – ear, nose and throat (ENT) – rather than the use the technically correct medical terminology. Ear, nose and throat physicians cover a wide range of issues and conditions, all of which can have a huge impact on your day-to-day life. Problems such as hearing loss, ringing in the ears, laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) and sinusitis are just a few of the problems otolaryngologists can help patients manage, regardless of whether they can properly pronounce their title.

Blount Memorial otolaryngologist Dr. Bryan Tigner says hearing loss and ringing in the ears are problems that affect millions of Americans. “About one in five adults suffers from some degree of hearing loss,” Tigner said. “For adults over age 65, that number jumps to about one in three. It’s a condition that not only contributes to issues such as isolation and depression; it also can complicate and contribute to dementia. In fact, it may surprise many people to learn that those who have mild hearing loss are almost twice as likely to develop dementia, a risk that increases with the degree of hearing loss they’re experiencing,” he said. “We’ve found that cognitive abilities decline 30 to 40 percent faster in older adults who are experiencing hearing loss,” he explained. “Ringing in the ears, or tinnitus, affects up to 50 million Americans. It is frequently the first symptom of hearing loss,” he added.

Fortunately, Tigner says, there have been some major advancements in hearing technology. “Today’s hearing aids are not your grandfather’s hearing aids,” he said. “These days, hearing aids can be stylish, sleek and highly effective, and are digitally programmed to each patient’s unique level of hearing loss. Some even correspond to iPhone apps, allowing you to control your settings, stream calls and music, and even automatically change your settings based on different locations and environments,” he explained.

Another key concern for otolaryngologists is LPR. “Laryngopharyngeal reflux, or LPR, involves the contents of your stomach backing up into the throat,” Tigner said. “Symptoms of LPR can include chronic throat clearing, too much throat drainage, hoarseness and a cough associated with stomach reflux. Studies have shown that these symptoms have a higher correlation with esophageal cancer than typical gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Esophageal cancer has been on the rise, increasing in prevalence about 350 percent since the 1970s. LPR also can play a role in sinusitis, which of course is very common in East Tennessee. Almost 35 million people develop chronic sinusitis each year, making it one of the most common health problems in the nation,” he explained. “As ear, nose and throat physicians, we are equipped to evaluate the voice box for findings consistent with LPR through a simple in-office procedure,” he added.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 983-4090.

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