The Interconnected World of the Ear, Nose, and Throat

It’s not just your imagination. When something affects your ear, sometimes you find that it also affects your nose and throat, and vice versa.

Because the ear, nose, and throat are so intricately connected, they are able to function as one unit, with the pieces making up and supporting the whole. The downside is the sort of the same: because they’re so intricately connected, a disturbance in one can cause a problem in or for the other. The ear, nose, and throat are part of the upper respiratory system and they share the same mucous membranes. For instance, it’s rare that you may have ear problems without also experiencing problems in your nose or throat – which is why they seem to be affected by the same ailments – infections, swelling, dripping and congestion. Whether it’s ear pressure and pain, post nasal drip or strep throat, the ear, nose and throat love to share.

  • Americans catch approximately one billion colds a year.
  • Ear infections are the most common childhood illness (other than colds) for infants and young children.
  • Ninety million American adults snore.
  • Allergies make the ENT system go into hyperdrive. It is estimated that 30 to 60 million individuals in the US are affected by the symptoms of allergies each year.

It’s all about the structure.

The canals and pathways that connect the ear, nose and throat make it easy for viruses and bacteria to move between the three.

  1. The ear has three parts: the outer ear, the middle ear, and inner ear. The middle ear is connected to the top of the back of the throat by the Eustachian tube which is lined with mucous, just like the inside of the nose and throat. The Eustachian tube includes the tiny bones through which sound travels to the ear.
  2. The nose is divided into two parts, the visible part called the anterior and the back part called the posterior. The back, or inside part of the nose leads directly into the throat.
  3. The throat is comprised of three parts; the nasopharynx, located behind the nose, the oropharynx behind the mouth, and the laryngopharynx where the voice box is housed.
  4. The entire system is surrounded by a system of hollow cavities in the skull called the sinuses. The sinuses are about an inch across and are located in the cheekbones, the center of the forehead, between the eyes and in the nose.

This interconnected ENT system helps us to breathe, smell and taste and plays a defining role in our looks.

An Ear, Nose Throat specialist is called an otolaryngologist
An otolaryngologist is specially trained to treat the many conditions of the ear, nose and throat. They are too numerous to mention here but some of the most common conditions in the ENT system include:

 

Anatomy of the EarConditions of the ear. Ear infections, hearing impairment, disorders that affect balance including dizziness, tinnitus, allergies,(jump link to previous blogs), ear wax, or any pain in the ear. ENT specialists can also treat congenital disorders of the ear (disorders you were born with).

 

 

 

 

Anatomy of the NoseConditions of the nose. These conditions include those that occur in the nose, sinuses and the naval cavity. They often affect smell, breathing and physical appearance and can include a deviated septum, allergic rhinitis, chronic sinusitis, snoring and sleep apnea.

 

 

Anatomy of the ThroatConditions of the throat. Disorders and conditions that affect the throat can affect speech, singing, eating, swallowing, and digestion. Some of the conditions include silent reflux, chronic sore throat, strep throat, tonsillitis, and problems with the adenoids.

 

 

The ENT system is important to our health and well-being. If you have chronic conditions that constantly cause congestion, breathing or sleeping problems, chronic cough or post-nasal drip, make an appointment with one of our ENT doctors.

 

References
Dysphagia: A Swallowing Problem


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