OAT answers your frequently asked questions. Learn more about ear, nose, and throat care, allergy relief, cancer care, and more.


What is Otolaryngology?

Otolaryngology (pronounced oh/toe/lair/in/goll/oh/jee) is the oldest medical specialty in the United States. Otolaryngologists are physicians trained in the medical and surgical management and treatment of patients with diseases and disorders of the ear, nose, throat (ENT), and related structures of the head and neck. They are commonly referred to as ENT physicians.

Their special skills include diagnosing and managing diseases of the sinuses, larynx (voice box), oral cavity, and upper pharynx (mouth and throat), as well as structures of the neck and face. Otolaryngologists diagnose, treat, and manage specialty-specific disorders as well as many primary care problems in both children and adults (American Academy of Otolaryngology).

How Do You Become an Otolaryngologist?

Otolaryngologists are certified to begin practicing after completing up to 15 years of college and postgraduate training and have passed the American Board of Otolaryngology examination. Upon completing medical school, graduates spend 3-5 years in an ENT residency program which includes a year of surgical training. Doctors must renew their license every 7-10 years. Meet our team of board-certified medical providers and audiologists online!

What Can I Expect During at ENT Exam?

Obviously, your exam will be tailored to your symptoms; however, you should be prepared to share a detailed medical history and a very thorough examination of the different areas of your ears, nose, and throat. Because otolaryngology is a specialty, your doctor will likely use sophisticated equipment to get a better picture of your overall condition. An otoscope may be used to illuminate your eardrum, for example, so your surgeon can better understand your ears and ear pathology. Tuning forks and microscopes may also be used. To see the insides of your nasal cavities more clearly, a speculum or endoscope may be used. For better visualization of the back of your nose or your voicebox, an otolaryngologist may use a flexible, fiberoptic nasendoscope.

What Are OAT’s Hours of Operation?

We are open from 8:00 AM - 4:30 PM, Monday-Friday. We have four convenient locations throughout the Greater Nashville area at Midtown Plaza, Centennial, State Street, and in Williamson County.

Allergy FAQ

What are Allergies?

Our immune system is designed to protect us from foreign substances that enter our body. Anyone who suffers from allergies will have an overactive immune system that is trying to push out allergens that could be considered harmless. The body with release histamine to push the allergens out. The exit points are the eyes, nose, and mouth. As a result, inflammation can occur as well as other symptoms.

What are Symptoms of Allergies?

  • A runny nose

  • Congestion

  • Sneezing

  • Itching in the throat, nose, and eyes

  • Watery eyes

There can be more symptoms and if you think you have an allergy, contact OAT to schedule an appointment.

What are the Common Allergy Triggers?

For many allergy sufferers, common triggers include mold, pollen, dust, and animal dander. While some experience allergies year-round, many experience seasonal allergies with spring and fall taking the prize here in Middle Tennessee. For a month-by-month breakdown of seasonal allergy triggers here in Middle Tennessee, check out our blog, “When are Seasonal Allergies the Worst?”

How are Allergies Diagnosed?

Detailed questions from your ENT will provide an excellent overview as well as a physical exam. Your doctor can recommend either a skin test or a blood test. A skin test will prick your skin with small amounts of allergens. If you are allergic you'll skin will break out into hives. A blood test measures the amount of allergy-causing antibodies in your blood.

How Do Allergy Drops Work?

Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is a well-researched and innovative approach to allergy treatment that doesn’t require painful shots. It has helped many thousands of people worldwide combat the symptoms of allergies and chronic sinusitis. Although it’s a relatively new practice in the U.S., it has been successfully used in Europe for more than 30 years. Much like injection therapy, sublingual immunotherapy delivers a slowly increasing dose of FDA-approved antigen that over time can build the body’s tolerance to an allergen. Eventually, this desensitization to the allergen results in fewer symptoms and medication needs. However, unlike injection therapy, allergy drops are placed under the tongue and affect the immune system through the mouth—the dendritic cells through the oral mucosa—which research shows to be a friendlier and more effective route to building tolerance.

What Are Some of the Advantages of Allergy Drops?

Allergy drops are not only painless and easily administered, but once our allergists have established the nature of your allergies, there’s no need for a monthly visit, as there is with injection therapy. Testing requires minimal lab work—usually just a single a blood draw—and limited need for skin tests. Furthermore, because treatment is so easy, patients are more likely to follow through and see results and enjoy an improved quality of life.

How Can I Tell if I have Allergies or a Cold?

Allergies and cold symptoms can be quite similar. So if you’re asking yourself if you have a cold, sinus infection or allergies, pay close attention to how long you’ve been sneezing or experiencing that runny nose. Colds typically last for 7-10 days while allergies can linger much longer. Furthermore, nasal discharge tends to be clear and watery with allergies and may be thick, cloudy, or yellowish with a cold.


What are Sinuses?

Sinuses are hollow spaces in the skull that are interconnected. There are four cavities: one behind the cheekbones, one on the center of the forehead, one between the eyes, and one behind the nasal cavity. They link to the nasal passage. Their primary function is to humidify the air we breathe and improve our voices.

What is a Sinus Infection?

A sinus infection is when the mucus lining gets inflamed. The inflammation causes the channels to block.

What Does Mucus Do?

Mucus protects, defends, and barricades against particles. It softens the air we breathe and traps dust/bacteria/allergens, etc. from entering further into the body getting rid of anything that could make you sick.

What Causes a Sinus Infection?

A few different things can cause a sinus infection. The most common would be a virus such as the common cold, but allergies and irritants can cause a sinus infection as well. You can read more by visiting our blog “Common Issues That Affect Your Sinuses and What to do About Them.”

What are the Symptoms of a Sinus Infection?

  • Congestion

  • Thick drainage either through the nose or down the back of the throat

  • Facial pressure around the eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead

  • Reduced sense of smell/taste.

  • Coughing

  • A sore throat

  • Fatigue

What is Chronic Sinusitis?

Chronic sinusitis refers to the sinuses being inflamed for an extended period of time even with the introduction of medication and other attempts at treatment.

How is Sinusitis Diagnosed?

There are many ways, but the most common include a nasal endoscopy which requires a thin flexible tube with a camera to be inserted into the sinuses to allow the doctor to see inside. There is also a CT scan which takes images of your sinus and nasal area. They are great at identifying deep inflammation and obstruction. If your ENT suspects allergies are playing a role than an allergy test will be administered to determine the allergen responsible.

How are Sinus Infections Treated?

Treatment plans vary based on the person and their condition. It's hard to identify what you will need without scheduling an appointment.


What is Ear Care?

Ear care involves maintenance and preventative steps to protect your ears from internal and auditory damage.

Why is Ear Care Important?

Our ears are a complex, yet delicate part of our body. Without proper care, we run the risk of incurring problems that could result in permanent damage.

What are the Most Common Ear Problems?

Ear care is designed to help prevent excessive earwax build-up, ear infections, tinnitus and hearing loss.

What is Ear Wax?

Earwax is produced to self-clean your ears. Excess build-up can cause hearing issues. If this happens, contact OAT for an evaluation.

How do I Clean My Ears?

A damp washcloth or tissue is sufficient for cleaning the outside of your ear. Avoid putting anything inside the canal or risk causing damage. Your ENT specialist should perform internal cleaning.

What are Ways I can Care for My Ears Daily?

Proper health is important. You can start by:

  • Keeping a healthy diet

  • Dry your ears with a towel after a shower or swimming

  • Keep loud noises to a minimum

  • Invest in custom earplugs if you're routinely exposed to loud noises

How do I Protect My Hearing?

Preventing hearing loss is a part of your ear care. There are a few things you can do to avoid hearing loss and tinnitus such as keep the volume to a minimum and wear earplugs at work if you are surrounded by loud noises. We've got more information for you in our blog "10 Tips to Protect Your Hearing."


What Pediatric ENT Services do You Provide?

Chronic or recurring ear infections

  • Ear tubes

  • Hearing and screening testing

  • Tonsils and adenoids

  • Diagnosis and treatment of pediatric sleep apnea

  • And more

You can visit our Pediatric ENT Services page for a complete list. 

When Should My Child See a Pediatric ENT Specialist?

If your child suffers from any of the above issues after following a treatment plan with your child's pediatrician, it's time to see a specialist. At OAT, our Pediatric ENT specialists can help you find a solution that is right for you and your child.

What are Ear Infections?

Ear infections are common for most children from six months to three years. Either a virus or bacteria cause them. Many children will contract an ear infection along with an illness, but illness doesn't need to be present.

What are the Signs My Child has an Ear Infection?

An ear infection is very uncomfortable, even for adults. When children aren't old enough to communicate an issue, you can look for signs such as:

  • Pulling of the ears

  • Abnormal discharge

  • Irritability

  • Fever

  • Respiratory infection

How are Ear Infections Treated?

The treatment plan is curated to the needs of your child. Antibiotics are an option but not always necessary. If chronic ear infections persist than ear tubes will allow for the ear to drain and decrease pain.

What is Tonsillitis and How is it Treated?

Tonsillitis is the name for inflamed tonsils. You can tell tonsillitis is present when they are visible, and the throat is sore. Children can also experience fever, tenderness when swallowing, and enlarged lymph nodes on the neck.

At-home care is usually recommended. Lots of rest, fluids, and foods that are easy to swallow. If a bacterial infection causes tonsillitis, antibiotics might be prescribed. Children who suffer from chronic tonsillitis may have them surgically removed. Your doctor will make that decision when necessary.


What Hearing Aid Services do You Provide?

At OAT, our audiologists work together with our ENT specialist to give you the best treatment. We can perform hearing testing to help you identify any hearing loss or presence of tinnitus. 

Why are my ears continually ringing? 

Ringing, humming, buzzing, or clicking is usually tinnitus. Tinnitus can present itself for a number of reasons, but one of the most common causes of tinnitus is prolonged exposure to loud noises. 

How do I Know I Need Hearing Aids?

Hearing loss varies person to person, but the best way to determine whether or not you need hearing aids is to have a hearing test. 

What are My Hearing Aid Options? 

With all the technological advancements, patients have a lot of options for hearing aids. You can invest in pre-made or custom hearing aids. Both provide wearers with improvements in audio. 

How do I Prevent Hearing Loss? 

Proper ear care is the first preventative step. Keep a healthy diet and avoid using cotton swabs when possible. Have your ears regularly checked by your ENT, but most importantly, limit exposure to loud sounds. 

What is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?

When sounds are too loud, they can kill off cells in the inner ear. Prolonged exposure means there is more chances for cells to be destroyed. Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable with the right protection. 

I Work in a Loud Environment. Does That Mean I Will Lose My Hearing? 

Routine exposure to loud noises can diminish our hearing. If you work in a noisy environment, you should invest in custom earplugs to reduce sound pollution. 

I am a Musician, Will Custom Earplugs Work for Me? 

Absolutely. Today's earplugs are equipped with some of the latest technology that will make it easier to produce quality music for musicians. They provide better sound manipulation and a personalized fit. 


Why is Throat Care Important?

Your throat helps you swallow and speak. When there are issues with the throat, it affects your quality of life. You can also develop severe issues like cancer in the throat. Regular check-ups with your doctor is the first step in throat health. 

What are Lymph Nodes?

Lymph nodes fight infection. They trap foreign substances and filter them out of the body. Because they are exposed to bacteria and viruses, they too can become infected. You will notice swelling and tenderness around the neck if your lymph nodes are inflamed. 

What Does the Thyroid Do?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped organ along the base of the neck. It releases hormones to stabilize the metabolism. Just like any other part of the body, the thyroid can experience some hiccups. If there are too many or too few hormones being produced, you might experience issues with your weight. 

What are Thyroid Nodules?

Thyroid nodules are solid fluid-filled lumps that develop inside the thyroid. They present themselves under different conditions. One could be the presence of a cyst. Another could be adenoma which includes an overgrowth of healthy thyroid tissue. Your doctor will help you make a diagnosis. 

Why Does My Throat Hurt? 

A sore throat is the most common issue that results in tenderness and pain when swallowing. A viral infection typically causes a sore throat. Strep throat is less common but is caused by bacteria. Tonsillitis is another option. Your tonsils that sit at the back of your throat can become infected. They are part of the immune system and can become infected when they come into contact with germs. 

What are Vocal Polyps?

A vocal polyp is a benign growth on your vocal cords. Sometimes you can get cysts and nodules on your vocal cord as well. All of which will result in hoarseness. They can materialize with overuse of the voice. Singers are susceptible to these types of growths. 

How are Vocal Polyps Treated?

It depends on the type of lesion. The correct diagnosis is required to identify the best treatment plan. Sometimes they can be treated through behavioral changes, through the use of medications, or changes in diet. Your doctor can give you more information.