Inferior turbinates: their job is to warm, filter, and shape the air you breathe. They're also what swell up and obstruct your nose when you catch a cold or have an environmental allergic reaction. They're what make your voice sound pinched and funky, stop you being able to smell and taste, force you to breathe through your mouth all of the time (which is very tiring and can mean poor sleep quality), and if you're a flute player, it is DOOM. Here's an example of varying turbinate obstruction. WARNING: look away now if you're squeamish....!
Due to environmental allergies slowly damaging my nose over the years, this condition continually worsened until I had constantly obstructive inferior turbinates. This somersaulted into chronic sinus infections and a lowered immune system, The timing couldn't have been worse as I was just emerging from the prestigious International Artist Diploma course at the Royal Northern College of Music and beginning to forge a career as a freelance flutist. Some of the ways it affected me as a flutist include decreased breath capacity, inability to breathe through my nose, loss of resonance in the sinus cavity resulting in smaller & less projected sound, pain around the ribcage when supporting, blocked ears, pressure headaches when playing, and tiring quickly.
It was established that I needed an operation to reduce the inferior turbinates, but I had been on a waiting list for over a year. It seemed that continuing a career as a flutist would be impossible without this intervention. I am very fortunate to have received support from Help Musicians UK to have the operation quicker than I would have had otherwise.
I'm delighted to report that the operation was a success and I am now back to playing professionally. Already, the difference is staggering and I'm enjoying experimenting with what I can do now on the flute (to be able to taste and smell is still a novelty, as well)!
Thanks for reading this blog post. Any questions about the operation, do get in touch.
photo credit: www.ohniww.org206
Figure 3: Examples of differences in turbinate size and the stages of turbinate hypertrophy.