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Glossary - Ear, Nose, and Throat

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American Sign Language (ASL) - manual (hand) language with its own syntax and grammar used primarily by people who are deaf.

Anti-inflammatory drugs - drugs that reduce the symptoms and signs of inflammation.

Assistive devices - technical tools and devices such as alphabet boards, text telephones, or text-to-speech conversion software used to assist people with physical or emotional disorders in performing certain actions, tasks, and activities.

Audiologist - a healthcare professional trained to identify and measure hearing impairments and related disorders using a variety of tests and procedures.

Audiology - the study of hearing and hearing disorders.

Auditory brainstem response (ABR) test - test used for hearing in infants and young children, or to test for brain functioning in unresponsive patients.

Auditory nerve - eighth cranial nerve that connects the inner ear to the brainstem.

Autism - brain disorder that begins in early childhood and persists throughout adulthood; affects three crucial areas of development: communication, social interaction, and creative or imaginative play.

Autoimmune deafness - hearing loss that may be associated with an autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.


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Balance - biological system that enables individuals to know where their bodies are in the environment and to maintain a desired position; normal balance depends on information from the labyrinth in the inner ear, and from other senses such as sight and touch, as well as from muscle movement.

Benign - a term used to describe non-cancerous tumors which tend to grow slowly and do not spread.

Biopsy - a sample of tissue is removed and examined under a microscope.

Blasts - immature blood cells.

Blood - the life-maintaining fluid which is made up of plasma, red blood cells (erythrocytes), white blood cells (leukocytes), and platelets; blood circulates through the body's heart, arteries, veins, and capillaries; it carries away waste matter and carbon dioxide, and brings nourishment, electrolytes, hormones, vitamins, antibodies, heat, and oxygen to the tissues.

Bone marrow - the soft, spongy tissue found inside bones. It is the medium for development and storage of about 95 percent of the body's blood cells.

Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy - the marrow may be removed by aspiration or a needle biopsy under local anesthesia. In aspiration biopsy, a fluid specimen, is removed from the bone marrow. In a needle biopsy, marrow cells (not fluid) are removed. These methods are often used together.


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Cancer - cancer is not just one disease but rather a group of diseases. All forms of cancer cause cells in the body to change and grow out of control. Most types of cancer cells form a lump or mass called a tumor. The tumor can invade and destroy healthy tissue.

Cancer care team - the group of healthcare professionals who work together to find, treat, and care for people with cancer.

Cancer cell - a cell that divides and multiplies uncontrollably and has the potential to spread throughout the body, crowding out normal cells and tissue.

Carcinogen - an agent (chemical, physical, or viral) that causes cancer. Examples include tobacco smoke and asbestos.

Chemotherapy - a medicine that can help fight cancer.

Chromosome - structures in our cells that carry genes, the basic units of heredity. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, one member of each pair inherited from the mother, the other from the father. Each chromosome can contain hundreds or thousands of individual genes.

Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) - a slowly progressing cancer of the blood in which too many white blood cells are produced in the bone marrow.

Clinical trial - a research study that compares many children from around the world with the same type of cancer and evaluates their treatment, side effects, and survival.

Cochlea - snail-shaped structure in the inner ear that contains the organ of hearing.

Cochlear implant - medical device that bypasses damaged structures in the inner ear and directly stimulates auditory nerve to allow some deaf individuals to learn to hear and interpret sounds and speech.

Complete blood count (CBC) - a measurement of size, number, and maturity of different blood cells in a specific volume of blood.

Complementary therapy - therapies used in addition to standard therapy.

Computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan) - a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays.

Conductive hearing impairment - hearing loss caused by dysfunction of the outer or middle ear.

Congenital - present at birth.

Constrict - tighten; narrow.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) - one group of herpes viruses that infect humans and can cause a variety of clinical symptoms including deafness or hearing impairment; infection with the virus may be either before or after birth.


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Decibel - unit that measures the intensity or loudness of sound.

Dizziness - physical unsteadiness, imbalance, and lightheadedness associated with balance and other disorders.


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Ear infection - presence and growth of bacteria, fungi, or viruses in the ear.

Earwax - yellow secretion from glands in the outer ear (cerumen) that keeps the skin of the ear dry and protected from infection.

Edema - swelling due to buildup of fluid.

Endolymph - fluid in the labyrinth (the organ of balance located in the inner ear).

Eustachian tube - a canal that links the middle ear with the throat area. The eustachian tube helps to keep the pressure between the outer ear and the middle ear the same. Having the same pressure allows for the proper transfer of sound waves. The eustachian tube is lined with mucous, just like the inside of the nose and throat.


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Grade - the grade of a cancer reflects how abnormal it looks under the microscope. There are several grading systems for different types of cancer.


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Hair cells - sensory cells of the inner ear, which are topped with hair-like structures (stereocilia), which transform the mechanical energy of sound waves into nerve impulses.

Hearing - series of events in which sound waves in the air are converted to electrical signals and are then sent as nerve impulses to the brain where they are interpreted.

Hearing aid - electronic device that brings amplified sound to the ear.

Hearing disorder - disruption in the normal hearing process; sound waves are not converted to electrical signals and nerve impulses are not transmitted to the brain to be interpreted.

Hemoglobin - a type of protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to the tissues of the body.

Herpes virus - a virus which can affect the skin and central nervous system.

Hoarseness - abnormally rough or harsh-sounding voice caused by vocal abuse and other disorders.

Hodgkin lymphoma - a type of lymphoma, a cancer in the lymphatic system; Hodgkin disease causes the cells in the lymphatic system to abnormally reproduce, eventually making the body less able to fight infection. Steady enlargement of lymph glands, spleen, and other lymphatic tissue occurs.


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Inflammation - redness, swelling, heat, and pain in a tissue due to chemical or physical injury, infection, or allergic reaction.

Inner ear - part of the ear that contains both the organ of hearing (cochlea) and the organ of balance (labyrinth).


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Labyrinth - organ of balance located in the inner ear. The labyrinth consists of three semicircular canals and the vestibule.

Language - system for communicating ideas and feelings using sounds, gestures, signs, or marks.

Language disorders - problems with verbal communication and the ability to use or understand the symbol system for interpersonal communication.

Laryngitis - inflammation and swelling of the lining of the larynx that usually leads to a hoarse voice, or loss of voice.

Larynx (also called the voice box) - a cylindrical grouping of cartilage, muscles, and soft tissue which contains the vocal cords. The vocal cords are the upper opening into the windpipe (trachea), the passageway to the lungs.

Lymph - part of the lymphatic system; a thin, clear fluid that circulates through the lymphatic vessels and carries blood cells that fight infection and disease.

Lymph nodes - part of the lymphatic system; bean-shaped organs, found in the underarm, groin, neck, and abdomen, that act as filters for the lymph fluid as it passes through them.

Lymph vessels - part of the lymphatic system; thin tubes that carry lymph fluid throughout the body.

Lymphangiogram (LAG) - an imaging study that can detect abnormalities in the lymphatic system and structures. It involves a dye being injected to the lymph system.

Lymphatic system - part of the immune system; includes lymph, ducts, organs, lymph vessels, lymphocytes, and lymph nodes, whose function is to produce and carry white blood cells to fight disease and infection.

Lymphocytes - part of the lymphatic system; white blood cells that fight infection and disease.


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Malignant - a term used to describe cancerous tumors which tend to grow rapidly, can invade and destroy nearby normal tissues, and can spread.

Mastoid - back portion of the temporal bone behind the ear.

Medical oncologist - a physician who is specially trained to diagnose and treat cancer with chemotherapy and other medications.

Meningitis - inflammation of the meninges, the membranes that envelop the brain and the spinal cord; may cause hearing loss or deafness.

Metastasis - the spread of tumor cell in other areas of the body.

Middle ear - part of the ear that includes the eardrum and three tiny bones of the middle ear, ending at the round window that leads to the inner ear.

Myringotomy - surgical procedure to remove infection from the mastoid bone.


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Nasal polyp - a small rounded piece of the lining of the nose that can extend into the passages of the nose.

Noise-induced hearing loss - hearing loss that is caused either by a one-time or repeated exposure to very loud sound or sounds at various loudness levels over an extended period of time.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma - a type of lymphoma, a cancer in the lymphatic system; causes the cells in the lymphatic system to abnormally reproduce, eventually causing tumors to grow. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma cells can also spread to other organs.


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Oncologist - a physician with special training in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Oncology - the branch of medicine concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Oncology clinical nurse specialist - a registered nurse who specializes in the care of cancer patients.

Oncology social worker - a health professional with a master's degree in social work who is an expert in coordinating and providing non-medical care to patients.

Otitis externa - inflammation of the outer part of the ear extending to the auditory canal.

Otitis media - inflammation of the middle ear caused by infection.

Otoacoustic emissions - low-intensity sounds produced by the inner ear that can be quickly measured with a sensitive microphone placed in the ear canal.

Otolaryngologist - a physician who specializes in diseases of the ears, nose, throat, and head and neck.

Otologist - a physician who specializes in diseases of the ear.

Outer ear - external portion of the ear, consisting of the pinna, or auricle, and the ear canal.


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Pain specialist - oncologists, neurologists, anesthesiologists, neurosurgeons, and other physicians, nurses, or pharmacists who are experts in pain. A team of healthcare professionals may also be available to address issues of pain control.

Pathologist - a physician who specializes in diagnosis and classification of diseases by laboratory tests such as examination of tissue and cells under a microscope. The pathologist determines whether a tumor is benign or cancerous and, if cancerous, the exact cell type and grade.

Pediatric oncologist - a physician who specializes in cancers of children.

Pediatrician - a physician who specializes in the care of children.

Pharynx - back of the throat.

Phonology - study of speech sounds.

Posterior - referring to the back part of a structure.

Primary site - the place where cancer begins. Primary cancer is named after the organ in which it starts. For example, cancer that starts in the kidney is always kidney cancer even if it spreads (metastasizes) to other organs such as bones or lungs.

Prognosis - a prediction of the course of disease; the outlook for the cure of the patient.

Protocol - a formal outline or plan, such as a description of what treatments a patient will receive and exactly when each should be given.

Purulent - having or making pus.


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Radiation oncologist - a physician who specializes in using radiation to treat cancer.

Radiation therapist - a professional specially trained to operate equipment that delivers radiation therapy.

Radiation therapy - treatment with high-energy rays (such as x-rays) to kill or shrink cancer cells. The radiation may come from outside of the body (external radiation) or from radioactive materials placed directly in the tumor (internal or implant radiation).

Radiologist - a physician with special training in diagnosing diseases by interpreting X-rays and other types of imaging studies, for example, CT scans and magnetic resonance imaging.

Round window - membrane separating the middle ear and inner ear.


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Sensorineural hearing loss - hearing loss caused by damage to the sensory cells and/or nerve fibers of the inner ear.

Sign language - language of hand shapes, facial expressions, and movements used as a form of communication.

Smell - to perceive odor or scent through stimuli affecting the olfactory nerves.

Sound vocalization - ability to produce voice.

Speech - making definite vocal sounds that form words to express thoughts and ideas.

Speech disorder - defect or abnormality that prevents an individual from communicating by means of spoken words.

Speech-language pathologist - a health professional trained to evaluate and treat people who have voice, speech, language, or swallowing disorders, including hearing impairment, that affect their ability to communicate.

Staging - the process of determining whether cancer has spread and, if so, how far. There is more than one system for staging.

Stuttering - frequent repetition of words or parts of words that disrupts the smooth flow of speech.

Sudden deafness - loss of hearing that occurs quickly from causes such as explosion, a viral infection, or the use of some drugs.

Suppurative - something that makes pus.

Syphilis - a disease usually transmitted by sexual contact, that can cause serious injury to an unborn baby.


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Taste - sensation produced by a stimulus applied to the gustatory nerve endings in the tongue; the four tastes are salt, sour, sweet, and bitter; some say there is a fifth taste described as savory.

Taste buds - groups of cells located on the tongue that enable one to recognize different tastes.

Throat culture - a procedure that involves taking a swab of the back of the throat and monitoring it in the laboratory to determine the type of organism causing an infection.

Throat disorders - disorders or diseases of the larynx (voice box) or esophagus.

Tongue - large muscle on the floor of the mouth that manipulates food for chewing and swallowing; the main organ of taste, and assists in forming speech sounds.

Toxoplasmosis - an infectious disease caused by a parasite that can be harmful to an unborn baby.

Transillumination - a method of examination by the passage of light through tissues to assist in diagnosis. The light transmission changes with different tissues.

Tumor - an abnormal lump or mass of tissue. Tumors can be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Tympanic membrane (Also called eardrum.) - a thin membrane that in the middle ear that carries sound vibrations to the inner ear.

Tympanoplasty - surgical repair of the eardrum (tympanic membrane) or bones of the middle ear.


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Ultrasound (also called sonography) - a diagnostic imaging technique which uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create images of blood vessels, tissues, and organs. Ultrasounds are used to view internal organs as they function, and to assess blood flow through various vessels.


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Vestibule - bony cavity of the inner ear.

Vocal cords (vocal folds) - muscularized folds of mucous membrane that extend from the larynx (voice box) wall; enclosed in elastic vocal ligament and muscle that control the tension and rate of vibration of the cords as air passes through them.

Voice - sound produced by air passing out through the larynx and upper respiratory tract.


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X-ray - a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.


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