Ear, nose and throat issues: Why you shouldn’t suffer in silence

Stuart Rhys-Williams

Stuart Rhys-Williams - Credit: Archant

Seniority brings with it an increase in ear, nose and throat issues, but there is no need to suffer in silence, says ENT Consultant, Mr Stuart Rhys-Williams

Dorset has the largest population of over 60’s in the UK, which in turn means ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) issues are common. These include: tinnitus, ageing larynxes (voice-box), dizziness and hearing loss.

Tinnitus, which is often described as “ringing in the ears”, is a very common condition where sufferers hear a constant noise in their ears with no external source. Conditions like these can be very isolating, but they need not be. Accurate diagnosis is crucial. Various devices and coping strategies are available, and associations such as the British Tinnitus Association may offer additional support.

Another common ENT issue is dizziness. This is more complex to deal with. Discussing the history of the condition with the patient is a very important part of the diagnosis. There are four factors that affect balance: one is vision; the second is the messages to the brain that come from your back, legs and neck; the third is your balance centre, located in the centre of the ear and the fourth is central brain connections. Only two of these need to deteriorate to cause the feeling of dizziness. I usually start by diagnosing the biggest problem, explaining the relevant factors, and then working on rehabilitation.

An ageing larynx (voice box) is another issue I often come across in my clinic, it can be quite distressing to experience a change in voice. Women’s voices drop as the vocal chords become slightly water logged, while men’s become higher as their vocal chords thin.

Due to living near a busy coastline, sinus problems are very common in Bournemouth. We refer to this as ‘Bournemouth Nose’. The most common nose operations performed at Nuffield Health are for nasal blockage, straightening the nasal septum and removing nasal polyps. All of these alleviate the spectrum of distressing symptoms caused by blocked nasal passages and catarrh.

Locals often take advantage of the blue flag beaches but the popularity of watersports leads to many cases of swimmer’s ear; an irritation and pain within the ear, which needs prompt treatment. This involves expertly cleaning the ear under a microscope. Neglecting to deal with it properly at the time will make for hearing problems later.

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It is very important not to chalk these ENT problems down to old age. There is much that can be done to help people of all ages to alleviate these distressing and sometimes isolating conditions.

Ear hygiene

• Don’t use cotton buds to clean inside your ear canal. Wax is healthy and prevents ear infections like swimmer’s ear.

• Wax softener or olive oil will help encourage the wax to come out by itself as the ear is the only organ in the body where you get a natural migration of cells.

• Treat ear infections early to prevent them becoming chronic.

Meet the ENT consultant

Mr Stuart Rhys-Williams has been a Consultant Ear, Nose and Throat specialist at Nuffield Health Bournemouth for 23 years. With a special interest in the voice, Mr Rhys-Williams has treated renowned singers and has expertise in the medical and surgical management of children with ENT problems. To make an appointment at his Weekly Ear Clinics for the management of tinnitus, hearing loss, dizziness and chronic ear disease please call the Nuffield Clinic team on 01202 310777.


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