Ear, nose and throat disorders are among the top reasons why children visit the doctor. Conditions range from earaches and tonsillitis to sleep apnea and craniofacial anomalies.
February is Kids ENT Health Month, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery (AAOHNS). While ear infections and choking hazards may rank among the top reasons a child sees a pediatric otolaryngologist, it’s important for parents and guardians to be aware of ENT conditions that need a more specialized approach of clinical care.
Pediatric otolaryngologists in the Department of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine are experts in surgical techniques that allow children to hear, speak, breathe, articulate speech and develop toward their full potential.
The department’s Division of Pediatric Otolaryngology—comprised of several faculty physicians and advanced practice providers—recently expanded their clinical care offerings to not only include Riley Hospital for Children in downtown Indianapolis but IU Health North in Carmel.
The department is also involved with multidisciplinary clinics at Riley Hospital for Children: Aerodigestive Program, Vascular Anomalies Program, Cleft & Craniofacial Anomalies Program and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Clinic. Pediatric otolaryngologists work alongside physicians and specialists from various departments at IU School of Medicine and IU Health.
Bruce Matt, MD, MS, associate professor of otolaryngology—head and neck surgery and pediatric division chief, commonly treats airway issues, obstructive sleep apnea and hearing loss in children from ear infections and congenital or genetic reasons.
“Our goal is to provide thoughtful, compassionate, comprehensive otolaryngologic care for our patients and their families,” Matt said.
Between 12%-15% of American school-aged children have some degree of hearing loss due to noise exposure, according to the AAOHNS. Matt, who was the first fellowship-trained pediatric otolaryngologist in Indiana, said if a parent or guardian can hear sounds coming from a child’s headphones or earphones as they listen to music or watch a show, then it’s too loud.
The AAOHNS offers these tips and signs of noise-induced hearing loss in children.
Parents and guardians should also be aware of common symptoms of sleep apnea in children, said Christopher Discolo, MD, associate professor of otolaryngology—head and neck surgery. These symptoms can include loud snoring, pauses in breathing during sleep, bedwetting, frequent awakenings, difficulty waking up, behavior changes and poor school performance.
Discolo joined the department in fall 2020 after spending nearly 12 years at the Medical University of South Carolina where he was director of its cleft lip and palate program. One in 600 newborns in the United States has a cleft lip—separation of the lip— and/or a cleft palate—an opening in the roof of the mouth. Both are the most common birth defects of the face.
Recently, Discolo performed the first-ever distraction osteogenesis by a physician in the Department of Otolaryngology. The surgery, a newer technique growing in popularity at many major children’s hospitals, lengthens the lower jaw in infants and children who are born with a mandible—the lower jaw—that’s too small, which results in breathing and feeding problems.
“Caring for children with cleft and craniofacial differences has been a big part of my practice over the last decade,” Discolo said. “I am very excited that, as part of the Department of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery at IU School of Medicine, I am able to bring this state-of-the-art treatment to our patients.”