What are the Most Common Ear, Nose and Throat Problems?

Tidbits and Symptoms of 4 Common ENT Disorders

Woman at her ENT appointment.
Woman at her ENT appointment. Westend61/Getty Images

There are many ENT disorders, and even more signs and symptoms associated with each one. The following is a list of symptoms of 4 of the most common ENT disorders. Not all people will experience the same set of symptoms, and you may have only some of the symptoms on the list.

Symptoms of an Ear Infection

Ear infections are one of the most prevalent ENT disorders. They occur when germs become trapped inside the inner ear.

The Eustachian tube, a tiny tube that originates in the ear and drains in to the back of the throat, usually keeps unwanted germs out. If this tube is too small or becomes clogged by fluid and mucus, bacteria or other microbes may be able to enter the ear and cause an infection. Signs & symptoms of an ear infection include:

  • recent history of an upper respiratory infection
  • pain and pressure
  • fever
  • loss of balance
  • difficulty hearing
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fluid discharge from the ear (this indicates perforation of the tympanic membrane)

Ear infections are more common in children. In fact, it is the most common infection in infants and toddlers. If your child has an ear infection, it may be difficult to detect. Here are some things you may notice about your child:

  • pulling or tugging on the ears
  • increased fussiness, especially at bedtime
  • fails to startle at loud noises or does not consistently respond to name
  • eating or drinking abnormally

Symptoms of Strep Throat

Strep is an abbreviation for a family of bacteria called "streptococci." Strep throat occurs when the throat and surrounding structures become infected with this germ. While strep throat is a common infection, many other infections have the same symptoms.

You must have an actual strep test at your doctor's office to be certain that your symptoms are associated with a streptococcal infection versus a different bacterial or viral infection. Symptoms are usually abrupt in onset including:

Notably absent in strep throat are a runny nose and cough. You may also suspect strep throat if you have been exposed to someone with a strep infection in the last two weeks. Children between the ages of 5 and 15 are most at risk. You are also more likely to get a strep infection during the winter months.

Symptoms of Sinusitis

Sinusitis occurs when a germ finds its way in to the hollow recesses of the skull that surround your eyes and nose. The infection can then become trapped there, causing inflammation, pressure and pain. Acute sinusitis is often secondary to a common cold, so you are more likely to get sinusitis during the winter months. Chronic sinusitis is sometimes an inflammatory disorder caused by untreated allergies or conditions, such as bronchial asthma. Sinusitis can last from weeks to years if left untreated.

Symptoms of sinusitis are:

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Apnea is a medical term meaning to stop breathing. Sleep apnea is a disorder causing one to stop breathing for brief periods of time while sleeping. Sleep apnea is a common disorder and can cause severe health problems if left untreated. If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, see a doctor. Symptoms include:

  • 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

In addition to these symptoms, many individuals with sleep apnea have often been told by a spouse or other family member that they snore, gasp or choke while sleeping. Family members may have observed an episode in which you stopped breathing while asleep. You are more likely to have sleep apnea if you are overweight, have enlarged tonsils, take sedatives at bedtime or have inherited a shorter airway than the general population. People who are obese and have uncontrolled hypertension are more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea.

The majority of people will experience one or more of these disorders in their lifetime. While visiting with your physician, discussion of your symptoms may help your doctor to come up with a diagnosis of an ENT disorder.


American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Tips to Remember: Sinusitis. Accessed: November 24, 2008 from http://www.aaaai.org/patients/publicedmat/tips/sinusitis.stm

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Instistute—Deseases and Conditions index. Sleep Apnea. Accessed: November 24, 2008 from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/SleepApnea/SleepApnea_Diagnosis.html

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. Is It Strep Throat? Accessed: August 29, 2015 from http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/strepthroat/pages/default.aspx

National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Ear Infections in Children. Accessed: November 24, 2008 from http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/pages/earinfections.aspx