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The nose is a fascinating part of the anatomy; you can breathe with it, smell with it, pick it, pierce it, you name it! But those things only scratch n’ sniff the surface. Your nose and the sinuses connected to it are more intricate than you probably realize.

So what mysteries fill the hollow spaces that we call sinuses? Your nose knows, and so should you! To shed some light into all the nooks and crannies up there, this post will explain what exactly your sinuses are, why we have them, and how they work.

Sinuses at Face Value

It makes sense to assume that the term “sinuses” refers to only two sinus cavities, one for each side of your nose. The truth is, you actually have 4 different pairs of sinus cavities in your head. (Unless, of course, you belong to the estimated 10% of people with a third sinus!) Your 4 normal paired sinus cavities include:

  • Maxillary sinuses: The maxillary sinuses are the largest of the 4 pairs. They are located behind cheekbones near the upper jaw.
  • Ethmoid sinuses: The ethmoid sinuses are not individual air sacs like the other three. They are a collection of 6-12 small
    air cells that open independently into the nasal cavity, and are divided into front, middle, and rear groups.
  • Frontal sinuses: These are near the center of the forehead, one cavity above each eye.
  • Sphenoid sinuses: Located in the sphenoid bone, near the optic nerve and pituitary gland on the side of the skull.


Sinus Cavity Diagram


The mucus in your nose has a purpose beyond just turning into boogers. Each sinus secretes mucus that lines the cavity. Tiny hair-like mechanisms called cilia constantly sweep the mucus from the sinuses into the nasal passage itself. Scientists agree that this is the main function of the sinus network.

The continuous sweeping process of the cilia keeps the air we breathe and the inside of the nose moist. Mucus also protects the nasal cavities by trapping all the pollutants, microorganisms, dust, dirt, and other irritating particles in the air.

You’re Such an Airhead:

There are two other widely-accepted theories about the purpose of sinuses. The first is that they decrease the weight of your skull and help to distribute the weight more evenly. Each sinus opening is contained inside a cranial (skull) bone, making them partially hollow, and therefore, lighter.

The other explanation is that the sinuses increase the resonance of your voice. When your vibrations from your vocal cords pass through the sinus cavities, there is a sort of echo effect in the empty space, projecting and resonating the sound.Think about how you sound when you have a cold; you sound “nasally,” because the hollow passages in your head are blocked.

Now that you see the complexity of your sinus network, you can understand why Ear, Nose, and Throat physicians undergo such specialized training before they are qualified to practice in the field. At the Pasha Snoring & Sinus Center, each patient receives individualized treatment from an experienced, patient-centered ENT. Make an appointment today to consult with Dr. Pasha about permanent sinus solutions, in-office procedures, and other cutting-edge techniques that allow you to breathe freely!