Otolaryngologists, or ear nose and throat doctors are uniquely trained and qualified to treat sleep apnea. ENTs specialize in conditions that affect the ears, nose and throat.  Breathing certainly happens in the nose and throat so it only makes sense to see a breathing specialist for sleep apnea treatment.

Sleep apnea is a condition that is cause by problems with breathing while you sleep. It is commonly caused by obstructions in the nose and throat. Many times ENTs are able to stop sleep apnea through the use of highly targeted surgical procedures. ENTs are not only clinicians, they are surgeons as well.

Sleep apnea caused by nasal obstruction

A great number of people don’t breathe properly through their nasal passages and many of these people don’t even know it. ENTs start sleep apnea treatment by assessing your breathing. This assessment begins with the nose, because that is where breathing starts.  The ENT will physically examine your nose and nasal passages. The ENT may use an endoscope to see the interior of your nose and sinuses. The ENT may also order imaging tests.

If a nasal obstruction is discovered, the ENT can perform surgery to bring quick and permanent relief.  These surgeries for sleep apnea include:

Balloon sinuplasty

This surgery is minimally invasive and is perfect for mild sleep apnea. Your ENT can perform the procedure right in the office using local anesthesia. You won’t have much down time because recovery is quick. During this procedure, the ENT inserts a small balloon-like device into the nasal passage using an endoscope. The balloon is inflated, the passages are opened and they retain the shape so the obstruction is eliminated.

Turbinoplasty and turbinate reduction

Turbinates are made of bone and soft tissue located on the inside of the nose. You have three sets of turbinates on each side of your nose. The job of turbinates is to warm and humidify the air to make it ready for the lungs. If the turbinates are too large, it is hard for air to get through. Turbinates can have an overgrowth of bone or be enlarged from chronic conditions like allergies. Turbinoplasty or turbinate reduction removes a portion of the turbinate to restore proper nasal breathing.  The procedure can be done in the ENT’s office with local anesthetic.


Your nose should be divided into two nostrils by a straight septum. If injury or a birth defect has caused the spetum to be less than straight, you have what is referred to as a deviated septum. The deviation can impede your airflow and make it hard to breathe especially if you are in a reclined position or sleep on your side. The septoplasty procedure returns the septum it to the proper position so you can breathe correctly through your nose again.

Functional endoscopic sinus surgery

This surgery is also called FESS. It is used to remove nasal polyps. These grape-like tissue growths can restrict breathing day and night. Polyps can occur in the nasal passages or the sinus cavities. FESS uses an endoscope to access the polyps and has a much shorter recovery time than conventional sinus or nasal surgery.

These sleep apnea surgical treatments are used by ENTs to improve breathing and may be the only sleep apnea treatment you need.  Even if the use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device is still necessary it will function much better as you will be able to breathe properly.

Non-surgical sleep apnea treatments

ENTs may also prescribe the use of CPAP devices to keep airways open while you breathe.  These masks fit the face or nose and apply pressure when you inhale to keep the airways open. Many people find the use of CPAP devices uncomfortable or inconvenient. To get the most of your CPAP device, make sure that you see an ENT for proper fitting and airflow. With proper fitting and use of humidifiers, your CPAP device should allow you to sleep comfortably and safely.