Why Does My Throat Make Frog Noises
“If you’ve ever been to a restaurant where frogs are served as an appetizer (or frog legs for dinner), then you may have noticed that they make some strange sounds while eating. They sound kind of like gurgles and squeaks, but it’s not clear what their purpose is. Is this just part of the fun of dining out? Or do these noises serve a real function? We asked Dr. Franco A. DelBoffo Jr., professor at Columbia University Medical Center for his thoughts on why frogs eat with such gusto. Here’s what he had to say about frogs’ unique eating habits.
Q: What causes the frog noises we hear them making? Are those noises important?
A: For a “”frog”” that feels like a lump in the throat or that something is in there when you swallow, which doctors call the globus sensation, I think inflammation is probably responsible. This can be brought on by a bad cold, reflux, a viral infection, allergies, or enlarged tonsils. These conditions cause mucosal swelling which in turn squeezes up into your pharynx – making the lumen too narrow to allow passage through. The result is that air pressure builds up behind the blockage and eventually explodes through. It sounds like a firecracker going off, but without any smoke.
It’s very similar to how water will build up pressure inside a bottle until finally breaking its seal and exploding through. So if your sinuses are inflamed enough, you might even wake up in the middle of the night with your pillow soaked with snot — with no visible reason whatsoever!
I’m sure you’ve heard people talk about how loud the nose runs when someone sneezes; well sometimes the mouth does too. That happens because of pressure building up behind the nasal septum which suddenly breaks through the opening into the nostrils.
Of course, one way to deal with all this is to take decongestants and antihistamines. Another option is to use saline sprays or atomizers near the affected area to help reduce the swelling. But if you’re really sensitive to smells or just want to avoid using chemicals, you could try chewing gum or sucking on hard candies to help relieve the pressure buildup.
Q: Have you observed that some people actually enjoy the noise made by frogs eating? Why would anyone want to listen to amphibians chowing down?
A: Well I am sure that many people find it annoying, especially when they are trying to sleep. And I certainly don’t advocate listening to animals being eaten alive unless it’s a pet snake or other reptile. However, for me personally, I find the noise fascinating. As an ear doctor who has studied hearing loss in relation to aging, I know that our ears naturally become less sensitive with age. Hearing sensitivity tends to increase with frequency ranges around 4 kilohertz and 8 kilohertz. If you compare young adults to elderly individuals, the older ones tend to have higher frequencies than the younger ones.
This means that if you were watching somebody eating frogs, you’d notice that they seemed to slurp more loudly and faster. In addition, most people have trouble distinguishing high-frequency tones so you wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell whether the person was saying “”ahh ah”” or “”oh oh.””
So, yes, I guess some people may enjoy the noise, although I still don’t understand exactly why.
Q: How often should I go see my doctor if I experience repeated bouts of globus feeling? Do these symptoms require medical attention?
A: Yes, definitely. Globus sensations are usually caused by either acute upper respiratory tract infections or chronic problems like allergies. Unless you have underlying structural abnormalities, like deviated nasal septums, which affect the shape of your nasal cavity, or obstructions in your Eustachian tubes, which connect your inner ear to your throat, then these symptoms aren’t likely to get worse over time.
With simple stuff like allergic rhinitis, which affects 3 million Americans, the symptoms improve with antihistamine medications. With acute infectious diseases like strep throat (which accounts for 7% of visits to primary care physicians) and influenza (4%), antibiotics work quickly to treat the problem.
But if you have chronic issues like asthma or allergies, then you might need to consult a specialist for treatment options. For example, if you suffer from severe asthmatic bronchospasms, then your doctor might prescribe steroids to treat your symptoms.
Also, if you keep getting infected with common viruses like colds or flu, then you might consider a visit to a specialist for immunotherapy. Immunotherapies involve taking specific medicines designed to boost your immune system against certain diseases or illnesses. They are usually prescribed long term and are tailored to each individual patient.
Lastly, if you have a history of ear infections or fluid accumulation in the middle ear due to poor drainage, then you might also benefit from surgical interventions including surgery to repair your eardrum or mastoid bone.
Q: I love frogs. Can I listen to frogs eating now? What about next year?
A: Of course! Go ahead and enjoy yourself. Just don’t listen to frogs eating raw eggs. Those things give me nightmares.
Reprinted from Ear & Brain Health magazine © 2013. All rights reserved. Originally published January 2013. Reprinted here with permission.
Franco A. DelBoffo Jr. MD FACEP FAAAS is chair of Otology/Laryngology at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. He has authored several textbooks on otolaryngology and head and neck surgery and serves as editor of the journal Head & Neck Surgery. He is board certified by both the American Board of Otolaryngology and the American Board of Facial Plastics & Reconstructive Surgeons.”
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