Friday, July 6, 2007

Roller Coasters and Otolaryngologists

How does an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat specialist) relax after a long day? On a roller coaster, apparently. I heard this story from an otolaryngologist, and it's either a fact or a clever piece of fiction that a group of otolaryngologists travel the country together to ride roller coasters in their free time.

I have to laugh when I imagine the group stumbling, dizzy, off the latest ride at Great America. Dizziness is a top reason that patients visit their primary care physicians, and some of these cases are referred to otolaryngologists, who treat inner ear problems. The inner ear helps regulate balance in the body.

A wide range of fairly benign problems can trigger dizziness, such as an inner ear infection, a drug interaction, or anxiety. More serious problems such as Meniere's disease (vertigo caused by the fluid imbalance in the inner ear), brain tumors, and multiple sclerosis can also cause dizziness.

Are the roller-coaster otolaryngologists simply so fascinated by the workings of the inner ear that they seek out sensations that are partially regulated by the inner ear? Do they think about their patients as the roller coaster spins them around another loop-de-loop? Or is the irony of the situation part of the fun for them?

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