What are Ear Tubes?

Ear tubesMost children will have an ear infection at some point in their life, and all of us experience fluid buildup in our eardrums every once in awhile. However some kids suffer from recurrent ear infections and/or have fluid that remains behind the eardrum causing hearing loss. In those cases, an otolaryngologist may decide to temporarily or permanently put ear tubes in the ear drum (tympanic membrane), a procedure called myringotomy. WebMD explains that this procedure is done to:

  • Allow air to enter the middle ear
  • Allow fluid to flow out of the middle ear through the tube into the ear canal
  • Clear the fluid from the middle ear and restore hearing
  • Prevent future buildup of fluid in the middle ear while they are in place
  • Decrease the feeling of pressure in the ears, which reduces pain

The procedure is done under local or general anesthesia on an outpatient basis and only takes about one to three hours. Most kids can return to their regular activities the next day, with a few restrictions that mostly have to do with getting water in the ears, such as when bathing and swimming.

What exactly are ear tubes?  The American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery explains:

These tubes can be made out of various materials and come in two basic types: short-term and long-term. Short- term tubes are smaller and typically stay in place for six to eighteen months before falling out on their own. Long-term tubes are larger and have flanges that secure them in place for a longer period of time. Long-term tubes may fall out on their own, but removal by an otolaryngologist may be necessary. They also may be called tympanostomy tubes, myringotomy tubes, ventilation tubes, or PE (pressure equalization) tubes.

Regular follow-ups are required while the ear tubes are in place, and there are a few risks associated with them, such as  tearing, scarring or infection. In rare cases the tubes may fall out before expected or stay in longer than expected, however these conditions are rare and treatable.

If your child is experiencing hearing loss or frequent ear infections, talk to your doctor about ear tubes. They will likely refer you to an ENT such as our expert physicians at Westwood Ear, Nose and Throat. Our staff will make you and your child feel at ease from the moment you walk in the door and throughout the entire process. We’ll begin by talking to you and your child about their medical history and symptoms. Next, we’ll perform thorough testing including one using a pneumatic otoscope, an instrument that gently puffs air against the eardrum and assesses eardrum movement. Once we determine the what is causing the issues, we’ll develop an individualized treatment plan that is perfect for your child.

Call (888) 230-3715 and schedule an appointment at one of our four conveniently-located offices and have your child feeling great and yelling “Hear! Hear!” in no time.

For information on all things ear, nose and throat, visit the Westwood ENT website and blog.


The Burning Truth About Scented Candles

burning candles According to the National Candle Association (yes, there is such a thing), 7 out of 10 households in the United States use candles. If you suffer from allergies, you may wonder if burning candles, especially the scented kind, is safe. In fact, there has been a lot of debate about whether or not candles (and their wicks) are safe whether or not you have allergies. Unfortunately, the jury is out on that with many sources saying that they are completely harmless and others warning that they emit toxins when they’re burned. Much of the talk has been around paraffin candles, which are made from petroleum products and can produce harmful soot. It seems that the only thing that the two sides can agree on is that as long as candles are burned safely and properly, there shouldn’t be a problem. However, as with anything else, there is always a risk that a material or fragrance will trigger an allergy.

Other interesting facts from the NCA include:

  • U.S. retail sales of candles are estimated at approximately $3.2 billion annually, excluding sales of candle accessories (Source: Mintel, 2015).
  • Major U.S. candle manufacturers typically offer between 1,000 and 2,000 varieties of candles in their product lines.
  • More than 1 billion pounds of wax are used in producing the candles sold each year in the U.S.
  • It is estimated that more than 10,000 different candle scents are available to U.S. consumers.
  • ASTM International standards organization currently exist for the fire-safety labeling of candles, the heat resistance of glass candleholders, the fire-safety design of candles and the fire-safety design and labeling of candleholders and candle rings.

What does it mean to burn a candle safely and properly?

First and foremost, when burning any candle, you should adhere to all fire safety requirements and never leave a burning candle on it’s own for an extended period of time. But you know that.

What you may not know is that it is also highly suggested by a number of sources that candle use should be done in moderation. The line of thinking is that even if the candles do release toxins, there is no proof that they are harmful in the short amount of time they are being released.

If you want to avoid the issue altogether, but aren’t ready to give up your candle addiction, you can look for candles made from only natural products. Green America shares some resources for natural candle alternatives as well as candle-free aromatherapy.

If you think your candles may be triggering your allergy symptoms, schedule an appointment with our expert physicians at Westwood Ear, Nose and Throat and find out exactly what is causing them. Through patient-centered care and state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment techniques, we’ll develop an individualized treatment plan perfect for you.

Call (888) 230-3715 and schedule an appointment at one of our four conveniently-located offices and find out how living without allergies can brighten your life.

For information on all things ear, nose and throat, visit the Westwood ENT website and blog.


Middle Ear Disorders: Can You Hear Me Now?

When you hear people talking about problems with their hearing, it often has something to do with the middle ear, which consists of three small bones (called ossicles) that sit behind the eardrum and connect the middle and inner ear. This is the part of the ear that assists hearing by changing sound waves to mechanical vibrations.

middle ear

When you experience any type of damage to your middle ear, you may experience impaired hearing and hearing loss, spread of infection to nearby tissues, and tearing of the eardrum (which usually repairs itself within a few days). The Merck Manual provides the following types of middle ear disorders:

  • Blockage of the eustachian tube (which connects the middle ear and the back of the nose)

The symptoms of a middle ear disorder vary and can include:

  • Pain
  • Drainage
  • Loss of balance
  • Fever
  • Hearing loss

If you or someone you know is suffering from ear discomfort, it’s important to consult a doctor, such as the expert physicians at Westwood ENT. During your initial appointment, we will sit down with you and discuss all of your symptoms and medical history before we even start the diagnostic process. Once we discover what is causing the disorder, we’ll develop an individualized treatment plan that is the right fit for what you are experiencing. Treatment may include:

  • Medication: Antibiotics and over-the-counter pain relievers to help with infection and pain, respectively
  • Myringotomy: Tubes temporarily or permanently placed in the ear to drain fluid, which may remain after an infection
  • Middle Ear Reconstruction: An outpatient procedure that replaces the damaged middle ear bones with prosthesis

If you suspect discomfort stems from a middle ear disorder, don’t let this advice go in one ear and out the other. Call 203-574-5997 and make an appointment at one of Westwood Ear, Nose and Throat’s four conveniently-located offices today.

For more information on all things ear, nose and throat, Visit Westwood ENT’s website and blog.


Is Your Asthma Misdiagnosed Vocal Cord Dysfunction?

vocal cord dysfunctionHave you or someone you love been diagnosed with asthma, but are finding that the asthma medication you’ve been prescribed isn’t really helping? It could be that you are actually suffering from vocal cord dysfunction (VCD), also known as Paradoxical Vocal Fold Movement (PVFM). This misdiagnosis can happen because the two have similar symptoms and asthma is a common diagnosis for breathing issues. In addition, it is common for someone to have both asthma and VCD, making a proper diagnosis even more difficult.

 

Symptoms

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) , the symptoms of VCD can include:  

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Throat tightness
  • Hoarse voice
  • Voice changes

Adding to the confusion, AAAAI tells us that “breathing in lung irritants, exercising, a cold or viral infection, or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) may trigger symptoms of VCD.” However, where asthma involves airways and the immune system and is an allergic reaction, VCD does not. The latter occurs when the vocal cords aren’t working properly. Usually, the vocal cords remain open as you breathe in and out, closing (and vibrating) when you speak. In VCD, they inappropriately tighten as you inhale, subsequently making it difficult to take air in. It is the reverse for asthma sufferers who have trouble exhaling.

Another difference between the two conditions is that vocal cord dysfunction is not life-threatening and requires little more than the person relaxing for the issue to subside. Asthma, on the other hand, can be fatal if not treated properly; therefore, it is extremely important to have a correct diagnosis.

 

Diagnosis

In order to properly diagnose your condition, your doctor will first discuss your symptoms and your medical history. He or she will then have you take a breathing test called spirometry. This test measures how much air you inhale and exhale as well as how quickly you can exhale. Basically, it detects how well your lungs are working. Your doctor may also perform a laryngoscopy, which involves looking at the vocal cords with a camera that is attached to a flexible tube inserted in your throat. Both procedures can usually be done right in the doctor’s office.

 

Treatment

If you are diagnosed with vocal cord dysfunction, there is no need to panic. Treatment that teaches how to relax and open up the vocal cords through speech therapy and deep breathing techniques is highly successful. In addition to these techniques, your doctor will help you manage any conditions that trigger VCD including asthma, GERD, post-nasal drip and stress.

If you believe you are experiencing vocal cord dysfunction, make an appointment with one of our expert physicians at Westwood Ear, Nose and Throat. From the minute you pick up the phone and call, you will experience our patient-centered philosophy of care. When you come in, we’ll take the time to sit down with you and talk about all of your symptoms and concerns. Next, we’ll administer thorough, state-of-the-art testing to figure out exactly what is causing your breathing problems. Once we do, we’ll sit back down with you and discuss the pathology and develop an individualized treatment plan for you. We’re not horsing around and before you know it, you’ll be breathing and speaking comfortably again.

 

Call us today at (203) 574-5997 and schedule an appointment at one of our three conveniently-located locations.

For all things ear, nose and throat, visit the Westwood ENT website and blog.


Stop Spinning: Dizziness and Balance Disorders

SpinningDo you ever have the sensation that the world is spinning around you? We mean aside from the feeling that time is just flying by out of control. If you experience dizziness or spinning sensations, a feeling like you’re going to fall, lightheadedness, blurred vision or disorientation, you may have a dizziness or balance disorder. Whether your symptoms are mild or severe, they can have a huge impact on your day-to-day functioning, especially since they often including nausea, vomiting and the real possibility of falling and hurting yourself.

Dizziness is actually a blanket term covering four common conditions, listed below with descriptions from WebMD.

  • Vertigo. About half of all dizziness complaints are vertigo, which is the feeling of motion when there is no motion, such as you spinning or your environment spinning.
  • Lightheadedness. This condition makes you feel as if you are going to faint or pass out, and you may actually do so.
  • Disequilibrium. With this condition, sufferers will feel unsteady while standing or walking.
  • Anxiety. At times when people are very nervous or scared, they may actually feel somewhat light-headed in addition to anxious.

The good news is that occasional bouts of dizziness, especially lightheadedness, are normal and resolve themselves on their own. However, If you are experiencing them regularly, you’ll want to see a physician. Chronic dizziness can be caused by a number of serious medical conditions such as:

  • Problems with the inner ear
  • Drop in blood pressure and blood flow to the brain
  • Getting up too quickly from a sitting or lying down position
  • Medications
  • Migraine
  • Head injury
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Meniere’s disease

Our physicians at Westwood Ear, Nose and Throat have the experience and expertise to bring your spinning world to a halt. Schedule an appointment today to find out how we can help you. When you come in, we will take time to thoroughly discuss your medical history and your symptoms. Next, we’ll examine your ear, nose and throat to see if there are any issues there and do series of tests, which may include:

  • Testing of nerve function
  • Blood pressure test
  • Balance tests
  • Hearing evaluation
  • Tests of your eye motion
  • In some cases, blood tests or a heart evaluation
  • Less often, a CT scan or MRI of your head

Once we get results, we’ll help you understand them and the available treatment options. Whether a separate health problem needs to be addressed, a medication causing symptoms needs to be changed, or balance exercises should be implemented, we’ll do what it takes to get you on the path to stability.

Call Westwood Ear, Nose and Throat today at (203) 574-5997 and schedule an audiology appointment at one of our four conveniently-located offices.

And for all things ear, nose and throat, visit Westwood ENT’s website and blog.


Patch Testing for Contact Dermatitis

Contact DermatitisSometimes allergies affect the skin. While the symptoms are not life-threatening, they can be quite uncomfortable and even embarrassing. In a blog on our sister practice’s website, “Scratching Out Skin Allergies,” we looked at some of the ways allergens can affect skin: hives (urticaria) and angioedema, eczema (atopic dermatitis) and contact dermatitis. Here we are going to focus on contact dermatitis and what to do if you’re experiencing it.

There are two types of contact dermatitis:

  1. Irritant contact dermatitis is a non-allergic inflammatory reaction that is a type of injury caused by things that irritate the outer layer of skin, such as chemicals (e.g., detergents or dyes) and environmental factors (e.g., cold weather, airborne substances).
  2. Allergic contact dermatitis, like respiratory allergies, involves an immune system reaction that manifests on your skin. Common triggers include: cleaning products, topical medications, nickel and fragrances.

Contact dermatitis is easily recognized. The symptoms, per Mayo Clinic, are as follows:

  • Red rash or bumps
  • Itching, which may be severe
  • Dry, cracked, scaly skin, if your condition is chronic
  • Blisters, draining fluid and crusting, if your reaction is severe
  • Swelling, burning or tenderness

Often the culprit causing contact dermatitis is not as obvious. If you find yourself breaking out in rashes and don’t know why, you should contact a doctor such as the expert physicians at Westwood Ear, Nose and Throat. When you come in for your appointment, we will take the time to sit down with you and thoroughly discuss your medical history and symptoms. Next, we will do a series of tests in order to figure out exactly what your are having the allergic reaction to.

A patch test (contact delayed hypersensitivity allergy test) is the typical diagnostic tool for finding the cause of contact dermatitis. Mayo Clinic describes the process:

During a patch test, small amounts of potential allergens are applied to adhesive patches, which are then placed on your skin [usually on your upper back]. The patches remain on your skin for two days, during which time you’ll need to keep your back dry. Your doctor then checks for a skin reaction under the patches and determines whether further testing is needed. Often, people react to more than one substance.

Once the allergen(s) is determined, our team will work with you to develop an individualized treatment to end your discomfort. Whether it be medication, avoidance of trigger or both, you’ll walk away from dermatitis without a scratch.

Call (888) 230-3715 today to schedule your appointment at one of Westwood’s four conveniently- located offices.

For more information on sinus and allergy conditions, visit the CT Sinus website and blog.

For more information on ear, nose and throat conditions, visit the Westwood ENT website and blog.


Managing Laryngopharyngeal (Silent) Acid Reflux

laryngopharyngealFor most people, the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are pretty obvious, however when it comes to laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), the problem isn’t always so easily recognized. This is because with LPR,  heartburn — GERD’s telltale sign — doesn’t always accompany the flare-up.

In fact, the symptoms of LPR can often be confused with symptoms of other ailments, and the disorder is often referred to as “silent reflux” because it is not easily diagnosed. The most common signs, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS), include:

    • Bitter taste in mouth
    • Burning in throat
    • Throat clearing
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Post-nasal drip
    • Persistent cough
    • Hoarseness
    • Trouble breathing

Laryngopharyngeal reflux affects infants and children as well with the following symptoms (per the AAO-HNS):

  • Hoarseness
  • “Barking” or chronic cough
  • Reactive airway disease (asthma)
  • Noisy breathing or pauses in breathing (apnea)
  • Trouble feeding, spitting up, or inhaling food
  • Trouble gaining weight

At any age, reflux occurs when the muscle, which is responsible for keeping stomach acid from rising up into the throat isn’t working properly. This muscle is called the sphincter, and as a result of the malfunction, the acid can reach as high as the voice box (larynx) and the back of the nasal airway. Needless to say, this creates a very uncomfortable feeling.

When LPR occurs in infants and children, it is often due to a sphincter and/or esophaguses that has not had time to fully develop. In adults, the reflux can occur because of many causes, which the AAO-HNS cites as:

  • Malfunctioning or abnormal lower esophageal sphincter muscle (LES)
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Abnormal esophageal contractions
  • Slow emptying of the stomach
  • Diet (chocolate, citrus, fatty foods, spices)
  • Overeating, alcohol and tobacco abuse
  • Pregnancy

Most adults will have LPR at some point in their lives, however, when it becomes a chronic condition, the consistent pooling of stomach acid becomes dangerous. If you feel that you are experiencing any of the symptoms, make an appointment at Westwood Ear, Nose & Throat to find out for sure.

When you arrive, we will sit down with you to thoroughly discuss what you have been experiencing and your medical history. We will also evaluate your vocal quality, efficiency and speaking technique. To further pinpoint the problem, we’ll proceed with physical and diagnostic testing, which may include:

  • Endoscopic exams – Your physician will use a thin, flexible tube to look at your throat and vocal folds on a monitor.
  • pH monitoring – Your physician will place a small catheter through your nose and into your throat and esophagus. During this procedure, sensors detect the amount of acid present and a small computer worn at the waist records findings during a 24-hour period.

Whether treatment involves dietary changes, medication, or both, our expert physicians will create an individualized plan that will help you better manage your laryngopharyngeal reflux and get back to living life comfortably.

Call Westwood Ear, Nose & Throat at (888) 230-3715 today to make an appointment at one of our three conveniently-located offices.

And for all things ear, nose and throat related, visit our website and blog.


5 Unusual Things That Can Trigger Your Allergies

Allergy TriggersWhen you think of the things that trigger sinus and skin allergies, you probably think of the usual — pollen, dust, mold, pet dander, food — but there are some other things out there that can cause reactions too. And these may surprise you. Let’s take a look:

  1. Leather shoes. If your feet are sore and itchy, it could possibly mean that you have been spending too much time standing, your shoes don’t fit right, or you are having an allergic reaction to your shoes. While not a common allergy, some people react to the chemicals that are used to treat the leather and end up with a rash, contact dermatitis, on their feet.
  2. Water. Believe it or not, some people, mostly women, can get hives just from touching water. While the cause of aquagenic urticaria is difficult to pinpoint, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that the onset is often around puberty and cites studies that suggest it occurs when:
    • A substance dissolved in water enters the skin and triggers an immune response. In this theory, the hives are not caused by water, specifically, but rather an allergen in the water.
    • An interaction between water and a substance found in or on the skin generates a toxic material, which leads to the development of hives.
  3. Exercise. Yep, you read that correctly. You can be allergic to exercise. However, before you give up your gym membership, keep reading a little further. There are two types of exercise allergies and neither is very common. The Merck Manual explains:
    • Rarely, vigorous exercise triggers a widespread, potentially severe allergic (anaphylactic) reaction. In some people, this reaction occurs only if they eat a specific food (especially wheat and shrimp) before exercising. Breathing becomes difficult or blood pressure falls, leading to dizziness and collapse. An anaphylactic reaction can be life threatening.
  4. Nickel.  If you are allergic to nickel, the material that composes coins, money may not buy happiness. It may, however, cause contact dermatitis. In fact, for anyone with a nickel sensitivity, other items that contain nickel such as jewelry, snaps on jeans, makeup, lotions, soaps, and shampoos can cause a reaction as well. For more information on this skin allergy, visit this blog from our subsidiary CT Sinus Center: “Scratching Out Skin Allergies.”
  5. Temperature. In “5 Things to Know About Allergies at the Beach,” we discussed solar urticaria, in which people break out in red, itchy hives. If the reaction is severe enough, it can lead to anaphylactic shock. On the opposite end of the spectrum is cold urticaria. Mayo clinic explains, “Cold urticaria symptoms begin soon after the skin is exposed to a sudden drop in air temperature or to cold water.”

If you think you are suffering from allergies, either any of these or one of the more common types, contact Westwood Ear, Nose & Throat at (888) 230-3715 and schedule an appointment with one of our expert physicians today. And for all things ear, nose and throat related, visit the Westwood ENT website and blog.


The Truth About Food Allergy Testing

Food AllergyA food allergy is a life-threatening condition that can have dire consequences if not recognized and treated immediately. According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE):

  • Researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies and the number of sufferers is on the rise for no known reason.
  • This potentially deadly disease affects 1 in every 13 children (under 18 years of age) in the U.S.
  • Every 3 minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency department – that is more than 200,000 emergency department visits per year.
  • It is possible to have anaphylaxis without any skin symptoms (no rash, hives).
  • Failure to promptly (i.e., within minutes) treat food anaphylaxis with epinephrine is a risk factor for fatalities.

Fortunately, what most people think is a food allergy is actually an intolerance, which while uncomfortable, is not serious. The problem is that a few of the symptoms of each can be similar, although they can vary in degree, and if the allergy symptoms aren’t treated immediately, the result can be fatal. For more information on the difference between food allergies and food intolerance, visit the CT Sinus Center (our sister office) blog: “Food for Thought: Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance.”

Other than experiencing a reaction, which is definitely not ideal, the best way to figure out if you have an allergy or intolerance is to be tested by an allergy specialist. There are two types of allergy testing: skin prick and blood.

  • Skin Prick Test (SPT): A drop of liquid containing extract from a specific food is placed on the skin. Next, the allergist lightly scratches (pricks) the area so that the liquid can get underneath, exposing the patient to the allergen. An allergy is indicated by the development of a wheal, which FARE defines as a “a raised white bump surrounded by a small circle of itchy red skin.” This quick test is usually conclusive within 30 minutes.
  • Blood Test: Like any other blood test, a sample is drawn and sent to a laboratory, where it is exposed to food allergens. A positive result is determined when the blood produces immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies in response to the specific triggers. Blood test results take several days to process.

Unfortunately, food allergy tests aren’t perfect, and there are several factors that can influence the results. According to FARE, “About 50-60 percent of all SPTs yield ‘false positive’ results,” and certain medications, particularly antihistamines, can have an impact on the outcome. Blood tests aren’t 100% accurate either, and throw in the fact that different labs use different test brands and scoring, the doctor’s interpretation of the results can be off. Furthermore, FARE explains, “The [blood] results are not very helpful for predicting the severity of an allergy. Instead, the test gives information about the chance that there is an allergy. This test is not like a pregnancy test, in which a person is or is not pregnant.”

All that said, in the hands of experienced allergists, such as those at Westwood ENT, both skin and blood tests are effective tools in helping to diagnose food allergies when combined with other diagnostic methods, such as:

With the expert evaluation and diagnosis you’ll receive at Westwood ENT, you can be assured that your diet is safe, albeit not always “diet.”

Call (888) 230-3715 today to schedule your appointment for food allergy testing at one of our four-conveniently located offices.

(And for all things ear, nose and throat related, visit the Westwood ENT website and blog.)


Listen Up About Hearing Loss

Hearing LossHave you noticed that your hearing isn’t as sharp as it used to be? Or maybe your loved ones keep telling you that you need to get your hearing checked.

According to the Hearing Loss Association of America:

  • About 20 percent of Americans, 48 million, report some degree of hearing loss.
  • At age 65, one out of three people has a hearing loss.

Unfortunately, many people who experience hearing loss are very reluctant to admit it and get help. Some people Others just don’t realize that they have an impairment. However, there really is no reason to suffer from even a minimal deficiency. Let us show you.

At Westwood Ear, Nose & Throat we have been offering a full range of audiology services for almost 20 years. With over 25 years experience between them, our audiologists specialize in identifying, managing, and preventing hearing loss, as well as treating dizziness / imbalance disorders and other ear-related issues. Our services include:

When it comes to hearing aids, our expert audiologists will take the time to sit down with you and thoroughly discuss your needs and answer any questions or concerns you have. Next, they’ll use up-to-date diagnostic tools to determine your level of hearing loss, which they will then explain to you in friendly, easy-to-understand terms.

If it is determined that you will need a hearing aid, our audiologists will fit you with one that best meets your needs and delivers the highest level of performance and comfort.  We provide primary hearing aids manufactured by Phonak and Resound, brands known for the highest performance and reliability, highest level of technology, best available environment adaptability, and top-rated sound quality and listening comfort.

Because we understand that wearing a hearing aid can take getting used to, we will provide a testing/trial period and help you schedule a consultation and general maintenance appointments.You won’t find this quality and personalized care at any retail outlet.

Now is the time to stop ignoring your hearing loss, and start hearing everything life has to offer.

Audiology services in all four of our conveniently-located offices, including our soon-to-open one in Fairfield County.Call (203) 574-5997 or visit EarNoseandThroatCT.com to schedule your evaluation today. To learn more about Westwood Ear, Nose and Throat’s services, please visit our website and blog.