Adult Snoring

The commonest causes for a narrow airway include:

Nose Blockage

From deviated septum, turbinate swelling, hayfever, sinusitis.

Throat Blockage

Large tongue, large tonsils, long floppy palate

Neck Blockage

Excessive weight in the neck, narrowing the internally breathing passage and placing excessive pressure on the airway tissues. The neck blockage is usually associated with being generally overweight.


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More on adult snoring

Snoring is a problem for a lot of adults, or more specifically for their partner!  Snoring is generally created by turbulent  (disturbed) airflow when the airway passage from the teeth to the windpipe is narrow and/ or floppy.

The problems caused by benign (or simple) snoring are largely social and affect mostly the partner.

Sleepless nights for the partner are initially amusing to the snorer, but may become serious eventually threatening the relationship.

Snoring may also be associated with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA), which is defined as a period where the adult snoring patient actually stops breathing (usually for more than 10 seconds) due to the blockage in the airway.

OSA may have very serious long term consequences on health.

The following are established associations with OSA
All causes of death

Patients with severe OSA have a 3 to 6 fold increase in all causes of mortality compared to patients without OSA.

Heart disease

Increased risk of blood pressure, lung blood pressure (pulmonary hypertension), abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks and heart failure. The heart risks are largely related to the increased stress on the heart from pumping against higher pressures in the chest.

Stroke (brain attack)

Increased risk of stroke especially in severe OSA.

Day Time Function (brain performance)

Increased morning headaches, daytime sleepiness, fatigue, inattention, poor memory, increased likelihood of mistakes during work and recreation performance.

Mental Illness

Has been demonstrated to be associated with increased depression.

Car Accidents

Much higher incidence of motor vehicle accident and death with OSA patients.

Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) can include a combination of the following
Good Sleep hygiene

Appropriate environment, no electronic devices, regular sleep schedule, avoid alcohol and smoking

Weight Loss
Pressure Machine

The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device is the gold standard for treating OSA. The machine has a mask that fits over the face, connected via a tube to a machine, that continuously pumps positive pressure air into the airway of the sleeping patient, preventing collapse of the tissues.

Dental Splint Device

Since a large tongue can contribute to blockage and the tongue attaches to the jaw, dental splint devices work on the fact that moving the jaw forward will move the tongue forward. This is an effective treatment method in appropriately selected patients.

ENT Surgery

Surgery to unblock either the nose or the throat or both maybe suggested to improve CPAP mask use; or in an attempt to treat OSA without the CPAP mask. Nasal surgery most commonly involves straightening the septum (Septoplasty) and reducing turbinate size (turbinate reduction or turbinoplasty). Throat surgery most commonly involves tonsillectomy (+/- palate surgery called palatoplasty). Your ENT Surgeon (otolaryngologist) will make recommendations on surgery, if appropriate.

Patients who snore and are concerned about their symptoms should be evaluated by an ENT (Otolaryngologist) Surgeon to assess their airway for blockage points.  A test for sleep apnea diagnosis is then usually suggested, this is called a sleep study (Polysomnogram).

Relevant articles

How hearing works

Video by Associate Professor Nirmal Patel.