Most Common Ear, Nose and Throat Problems and Symptoms

icon-blog By -Dr Aaksha Shukla
icon-blog By -January 22, 2024
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ENT Problems and Symptoms

There are several types of disorders affecting the ear, nose, and throat and a wide range of associated symptoms. The following is a list of the most commonly occurring ENT conditions: Everyone will not have the same set of symptoms, nor will they be of the same severity. In some cases, a doctor or an ENT expert will be needed to establish the proper diagnosis and provide the necessary treatment. Like any other area of your body, your ears, nose, and throat can have a variety of issues. These concerns can be deleterious to your health, ranging from sleeping troubles to swallowing difficulties. Some problems are tough to diagnose on your own, which is why an ENT doctor should be visited. They can correctly identify your health ailment and guide you toward healing.

Ear Infection

Otorrhea is ear discharge, i.e., any fluid that comes out of the ear. Often, ears discharge earwax, an oil produced by the body naturally. Earwax ensures that dust, bacteria, or any foreign body don't get into the ear. If there is any other discharge from the ear, it is a sign of injury or infection and requires a specialist’s attention. But some conditions, such as a ruptured eardrum, can cause blood or other fluids. Some causes causing drainage and ear discomfort are listed below.

Middle Ear Infection

Otitis media (middle ear infection) is a common cause of ear discharge. It occurs when bacteria or viruses enter the middle ear. Ear infections in the middle ear can cause fluid to build up behind the eardrum. There is a risk of perforation of the eardrum in cases of too much fluid, which can lead to ear discharge.


Trauma, which can occur while cleaning the ear with a cotton swab if you push it in too deep,. It can also cause discharge. Sudden increase in pressure, such as during flight or scuba diving. These may also cause your eardrum to tear or rupture. An uncommon cause is acoustic trauma, which is caused by extremely loud noises. It can also lead to an eardrum rupture.

Swimmer’s Ear

Otitis externa, or swimmer’s ear, occurs when bacteria or fungus infect your ear canal. It generally occurs when you spend long periods of time in the water. Excess moisture inside your ear can break down the skin on the walls of your ear canal, which allows bacteria or fungus to enter and cause an infection. However, swimmers are not the only ones to get affected; it can occur whenever there is a break in the skin of the ear canal, for example, in the case of eczema.

Uncommon causes

An uncommon cause of ear discharge is malignant otitis externa, a complication of swimmer’s ear that even affects the cartilage and bones in the base of the skull.
Another uncommon cause is skull fracture and mastoiditis, i.e., infection of the mastoid bone.

Signs and symptoms of an ear infection include:

  • Following are some common signs and symptoms of an ear infection:
  • Pain and pressure
  • Loss of balance
  • Fluid discharge (suggestive of a perforation)
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty hearing

Ear infections are more frequently seen in infants and toddlers in comparison to adults. Some of the signs in infants and toddlers include:

  • Tugging or pulling on the ears
  • Increased fussiness, particularly at bedtime
  • Failure to respond to their name or startle at loud noises
  • Eating or drinking in an odd manner


Treatment of your ear discharge depends on its underlying cause. In some cases, medical treatment is not needed. In children, the 48-hour wait-and-see approach is accompanied by close follow-up (according to the American Academy of Pediatrics), which is one of the options for treating mild pain in children. Signs of an ear infection usually start to resolve in the first week or two, without any treatment. The majority of cases of ear trauma heal without treatment. If healing doesn't start naturally, a special paper patch is applied for its healing. It keeps the hole closed. For swimmer’s ear, antibiotic ear drops are given for a week, and in severe cases, oral antibiotics are also given.


Rhinitis is an inflammation of the nasal membrane. It is a reaction caused by nasal congestion, sneezing, a runny nose, and itching, followed by symptoms in the eyes, ears, or throat. Common causes of rhinitis

  • Allergic rhinitis: This type of rhinitis is triggered by allergens present in the air, like pollen or dust mites. The primary cause is IgE-mediated inflammatory reactions.
  • Non-allergic rhinitis: The exact cause is not known, but some of the triggers can be irritants in the air, weather, infections in some foods and drinks, and structural abnormalities that can cause inflammation.

Eosinophilic rhinitis is a chronic subtype characterized by thick nasal discharge and elevated eosinophil levels in the nasal mucosa. It may have allergic or non-allergic components.

Some of the symptoms of rhinitis are listed below:

  • Nasal discharge (clear drainage)
  • Nasal obstruction
  • Sneezing, runny, and itchy nose, throat, and eyes
  • Itching
  • Nosebleeds
  • Recurrent ear infections
  • Other uncommon symptoms:
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • facial pressure
  • postnasal drip cough
  • sleep disturbances (snoring, breathing through the mouth)


Treatment depends on the severity and type of rhinitis. Mild cases can be solved by staying away from allergens and triggers. But in severe cases, medications may ease it. Treatment includes saline nose spray, decongestant antihistamine nose spray, antihistamine, a corticosteroid allergy shot, and sublingual immunotherapy treatment.


Swelling, or inflammation, of the tissue lining of the sinuses is called sinusitis. Sinuses are normally filled with air. Any irritation can cause them to block and fill with fluid, which can cause pressure and pain in your face. Another name for sinusitis is rhinosinusitis.

Types of Sinusitis:

  • Acute sinusitis: It is caused by viruses (common colds). Symptoms ease in less than four weeks.
  • Subacute sinusitis: The symptoms last from four to 12 weeks.
  • Chronic sinusitis: The symptoms last at least 12 weeks. It is caused by bacteria.
  • Recurrent acute sinusitis: The symptoms come back four or more times annually and last less than two weeks each time.
  • Bacterial and viral sinusitis: Viruses cause the majority of cases of sinusitis. Bacteria can cause sinusitis, generally after a case of viral sinusitis. If you have a runny nose, stuffy nose, and facial pain lasting for more than ten days, you may have bacterial sinusitis. Antibiotics and decongestants usually work well on bacterial sinusitis.
  • Fungal sinusitis: It is a more severe form of sinusitis, and there are high chances that it will happen if you have a weakened immune system.

Symptoms of Sinusitis:

Common symptoms of a sinus infection include:

  • Postnasal drip (mucus dripping down your throat).
  • Nasal discharge (yellow or green mucus)
  • Stuffy nose
  • Facial pressure (particularly around your nose, eyes, and forehead) worsens with head movement and bending.
  • Ear pressure or pain.
  • Fever
  • Halitosis
  • Bad taste in your mouth.
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Toothache (mainly of the molars)


There are various treatment options for sinusitis based on the severity and duration of symptoms.

  • Oral or topical decongestants.
  • Nasal saline rinses.
  • Antibiotics.
  • Intranasal steroid sprays.
  • Topical antihistamine sprays or oral pills.
  • Allergy medications
  • Surgery to manage structural issues, polyps, or fungal infections.

Constant Throat Clearing and Coughing

Coughing is a typical reaction of the respiratory system to irritants. Coughing forcefully removes mucus, foreign bodies, and other irritants from the throat and clears your airway.
However, when a cough persists for too long, it may be a sign of an underlying problem or disease. Moreover, coughing itself becomes an issue. The forces exerted on your body by continuous coughing can lead to direct physical problems such as vocal cord damage, rupture of small blood vessels in your airway, fainting spells, hernias, or even broken ribs in severe cases. It can also hinder daily and social activities and even affect the quality of sleep. Chronic coughing can be described by its duration, as a cough lasts for more than 6–8 weeks.

Some of the common causes of chronic coughs are:

  • Postnasal drip: It is the sensation of mucus flowing from the back of your nose into your throat. It may be caused by allergies, hay fever, or irritants.
  • Asthma: While uncommon, asthma may present with only a cough. This is known as cough variant asthma. It doesn't always mean that you will develop chronic asthma with wheezing.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) In this condition, stomach acid and digestive enzymes are back up (reflux) into your esophagus. It may even reach up to the voice box. In severe cases, reflux material may get into the lungs and trigger a cough. Coughing itself may cause acid reflux, turning it into a vicious cycle. While heartburn is common with reflux, not everyone with reflux experiences it. Hoarseness, throat clearing, the sensation of a flow in the throat, and coughing—usually when in an upright position—may be associated with GERD affecting the throat. This is called laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR).
  • Pertussis an unrecognized case of whooping cough—may be a cause of chronic cough.
  • ACE inhibitors: These medications are given to lower blood pressure. Chronic coughing can occur after a long time once these drugs have been started. And it may take 2–3 weeks for a cough to improve after stopping these medications.
  • Lung disorders: Bronchiectasis and Eosinophilic bronchitis can cause chronic coughs due to airway damage.
  • For smokers, chronic bronchitis is common. There are high chances of throat or lung cancer in a smoker or former smoker who has a chronic cough that changes abnormally or lasts for more than one month following completely stopping smoking, or if they cough up blood or notice a change in their voice.
  • Generally, chronic coughs go away with treatment of the underlying cause. Sometimes, there can be several causes that need to be treated.


  • Antihistamine allergy medications and decongestants
  • Inhaled asthma medications
  • Drugs to suppress stomach acid
  • Antibiotics
  • Completely stopping smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke

Hearing Difficulties

Hearing loss can be caused by several varying factors.It affects people, irrespective of their age. The three basic categories of hearing loss are listed below.

  • Sensorineural hearing loss:It is the most common type of hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is seen when the inner ear or hearing nerve is damaged. Factors such as aging, exposure to loud noise, injury, disease, certain drugs, or an inherited condition can be responsible for this type of hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is typically not medically or surgically treatable, but hearing aids can be beneficial.
  • Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss:It may occur abruptly or in a few days. It is important to see an ENT specialist immediately. Immediate intervention is needed to improve the prognosis. If treatment is delayed, i.e., two or more weeks after symptoms start, it will significantly decrease the chance that medications will help improve the condition.
  • Conductive hearing loss:The etiology behind this type of hearing loss may be blockage of the inner ear by earwax or a foreign object in the ear canal, fluid in the middle ear, infection, a bone abnormality, or any injury to the eardrum. This hearing loss is commonly seen in children who have recurring ear infections or who put foreign objects in the ear canal. Medical or surgical intervention can help some people.
  • Mixed hearing loss:It is a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss is followed by conductive hearing loss in some cases.

A hearing test is important to know exactly what kind of hearing loss you have and formulate a treatment plan according to the test results.

Hearing Loss in Adults

People aged 50 or more may experience gradual hearing loss over the years due to age-related changes in the ear or auditory nerve, also known as presbycusis. It may make it difficult for a person to bear loud sounds or to hear what others are saying.

  • Other causes of hearing loss in adults include:
  • Loud noises
  • Heredity
  • Head injury
  • Infection
  • Illness
  • Certain prescription drugs
  • Circulatory problems, such as high blood pressure

Sleep Apnea

In medical terms, apnea means to stop breathing. In this condition, there is a breathing stoppage for a short period of time.
Symptoms are listed below.

  • Waking up frequently in the middle of the night
  • Feeling unrefreshed upon awakening
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Waking up with a dry, sore throat
  • Morning headaches

Many symptoms of sleep apnea, like snoring, gasping, coughing, or even stopping breathing briefly, are reported by relatives of individuals with sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs in 2% of middle-aged women and 4% of middle-aged men, particularly those who are obese. If left untreated, sleep apnea can cause potentially serious health complications, including hypertension (high blood pressure), coronary artery disease, stroke, and heart failure.

A hearing test every year helps in evaluating overall health, and if you face any hearing issues in the future, an ENT specialist will review your previous reports to evaluate your condition. While visiting with a healthcare professional, a detailed discussion of symptoms will help with the diagnosis and treatment of ENT disorders.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do the ear, nose and throat have in common?

Eustachian tube.A canal that links the middle ear with the back of the nose. The eustachian tube helps to equalize the pressure in the middle ear. Having the same pressure allows for the proper transfer of sound waves. The eustachian tube is lined with mucous, just like the inside of the nose and throat.

What are the symptoms of ear, nose and throat infection?

Ear infections can cause earache, wax or discharge, hearing loss and balance problems. Nose infections are likely to cause a runny or blocked nose and sneezing.Throat infections can cause a sore or scratchy throat and pain or difficulty swallowing.

What are common throat problems?

The most common cause of a sore throat (pharyngitis) is a viral infection, such as a cold or the flu. A sore throat caused by a virus resolves on its own.

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