ENT research and technology: from newborns to the elderly
Ears, Nose & Throat Ear nose and throat specialists are adapting to meet changing needs.
Ear, nose and throat (ENT) conditions represent a wide range of problems that affect everyone from new-born babies to the very elderly. While most are mildly irritating, others leave long-term effects that impact not only on health, but on the broader quality of life. In some cases, simple symptoms can be warning signs of more complex and potentially fatal conditions.
Early diagnosis is vital for optimum patient outcomes. The Newborn Hearing Screening Programme was introduced in the UK in 2006, replacing the previous infant screening programme at eight months. This has proved to be invaluable. Identification of permanent hearing impairment at the earliest possible age is crucial for maximising speech and language development.
Alongside early diagnosis, more research needs to be done to understand how conditions are changing. For example, while incidences of head and neck cancer have been declining over the past 30 years, the number of people with mouth cancer has increased. Data from NHS Digital also shows that hospital admissions related to allergies has increased by 33% in just five years. The reasons behind these variations are still not fully understood, so it is vital that research continues.
Research has been aided by advances in technology. The development of cochlear implants is just one example of how technology has dramatically changed the lives of many living with hearing loss, allowing severely deaf people to hear similarly to a hearing person.
Modern keyhole surgery has now become routine in sinus disease and robotics are now being introduced for mouth cancer and even thyroid surgery.
The number of specialists working within otorhinolaryngology remains quite small but their roles are increasingly important. As the number of ENT-related issues continues to increase annually, the need for specialists becomes ever more critical.