Why Does The Doctor Make You Say 'Aaahhhhh' When Examining Your Throat?

Why do doctors frequently ask their patients to say ‘aaahhhhh’ when they are examining their throats?

I was looking at my throat in the mirror, and I did not notice any change in its appearance whether I was saying ‘aaahhhh’ or was silent. What information does making this sound yield?


Usually if you say ahhhh, your tongue flattens out a little and your throat is easier to see. If you just say ahhh quietly it won’t work, that’s why you hear Dr.'s say “give me a big ahhhh.” Try it again in the mirror and give me a big ahhhhh.

Yep, better visualization. The pharynx kinda arches up, the tongue down, the uvula up. Now turn your head and cough. :wink:

Better visualization as other people have said but also as a quick test of cranial nerves IX and X. You look at the arch of the soft palate. Quoting from my introduction to clinical medicine syllabus, “When observing for symmetry of soft palate elevation with phonation, you are testing cranial nerve IX and X. A lesion of these nerves will cause deviation of the palate to the unaffected side (secondary to unopposed muscle action)”.

My dad’s a doctor. He says it wasn’t until the first hernia exam he conducted that he figured out why the guy had to turn his head. He had hypothesized you turned your head one way for one nut, the other way for the other, or some such stuff. Turns out the guy turns his head so as not to get phelgm all over the doctor. :smack:

heh. My son is 10. He had a physical for little league. After the exam he confided to me that he was a little weirded out by the “turn your head and cough” thing. He said, “Dad, that was definately a bad touch”.

By shining a flashlight into the bathroom mirror, you can examine your own throat. It becomes immediatly obvious the effect of saying “ahhh”, as well as why a toungue depresser is used (A toothbrush handle works as well).

At around age 10, I learned the trick of depressing my tounge and raising my pallet just by thinking the “ahh” sound. It takes all of 10 minutes to learn, using the feedback discribed above. Doctors seem to find it curious when I tell them they won’t need the depressor, and find I’m right.

Also, If you are ever diagnosed with strep throat, take a long look at your throat as discribed in first paragraph. I guess it is not 100% reliable (they ALWAYS take a culture) but strep has a very distinctive apperance…useful for next time when you are undecided as to if you really need visit the doctor.