Today’s blog covers commonly asked questions about ENTs and why your speech pathologist may suggest making an appointment with one for your child.

ENTs: What are they? 

ENT stands for Ear, Nose and Throat doctor. The official title for ENTs is an otolaryngologist. An otolaryngologist is a doctor who specialises in the health and function of the head and neck. 

ENTs look after a large range or conditions and health concerns including airway development, respiratory conditions, vocal nodules, hearing loss, tonsils, adenoids and tongue and lip ties. 

ENTs can be essential to supporting healthy speech, language, facial and airway development in children. 

Why would a Speech Pathologist refer your child to an ENT? 

There are many different reasons your speech pathologist may refer your child to an ENT. Check out some of the most common reasons below: 

Enlarged Tonsils or Adenoids 

When assessing your child’s speech sounds a speech pathologist will look at how your child’s oral structures are developing. If they notice any of the following things, this may warrant a referral to an ENT: 

  • Large tonsils or adenoids
  • Nasal quality of the voice (either too much air or not enough air coming out when talking) 
  • Mouth breathing
  • Tongue thrust – tongue pushing forward or sticking out between teeth
  • Symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing (snoring or sleep apnea)

Enlarged tonsils and adenoids can lead to several different problems included blocking the air from flowing through the nose causing your child to breath through their mouth. Mouth breathing has been linked to changes in facial structures with a high and narrow palate and an elongated face.

Large tonsils and/or adenoids can also push the tongue forward and out of the mouth because there is not enough room to fit the tongue inside. 

They may also changing how the voice sounds (e.g., not enough air coming out).  Your child may sound like they are sick with a blocked nose. 

Finally, enlarged tonsils can also lead to sleep disturbances such as snoring or obstructing the airway during sleep. 

An ENT will determine if your child’s tonsils and/or adenoids are enlarged and the impact this is having. If they do determine that your child’s tonsils or adenoids are causing problems, they can perform surgery to remove them. 

Chronic Ear Infections

Hearing is essential for learning speech and language. Children need to clearly hear the sounds of the language around them in order to learn to make those same sounds themselves. If your child’s speech pathologist has concerns about their hearing status or a hearing impairment has been identified by an audiologist, an ENT can help with treatment either with medicine, insertion of grommets and/or wax removal. 

Voice Concerns

If your child’s speech pathologist is concerned with how your child’s voice sounds, they may refer to an ENT. A rough, gravelly or strained sounding voice can indicate a variety of different things and an ENT will need to look at your child’s vocal folds to determine what might be causing their voice to sound this way. 

For more information about ENTs, you can visit the Australian Society of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery

You can also find useful fact sheets on the Children’s Health Queensland webpage

We hope you’ve found this post helpful in explaining how an ENT could help support your child and why a speech pathologist would consider referring your child to one. We’re happy to answer more questions as always.  Get in touch by calling us on 3103 0776.