Why does my nose whistle when I breathe?

I'm so unhappy with my primary rhinoplasty, and I am constantly reminded of it because when I breathe in deeply through my nose it makes a whistling sound. Why is this?

Doctor Answers 10

Why does my nose whistle when I breathe?

The most likely answer for the whistle sound is a septal perforation, or a hole in the septum inside your nose.  These can often be treated without another large surgery, depending on your specific diagnosis.  Best of luck.

Garrett A. Wirth, MD, MS, FACS


Orange County Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

Nose whistle after rhinoplasty

I am sorry to hear about you being dissatisfied after your surgery.  It is very disappointing to undergo surgery and not be happy.  While no one can be sure until they examine you whistling after surgery is almost always caused by a septal perforation.  That is when a whole is made in your septum likely during your septoplasty and now the air is moving through it when you breath hence creating the whistling noise.  Depending on the size and its location is can sometimes be fixed but it is a tricky surgery.  

Good Luck 

Dr Rahban

Rady Rahban, MD
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 96 reviews

Whistling Nose

I would agree with the comments already posted on this board and certainly nasal whistling almost always occurs with septal perforation.  Although in certain circumstances, nasal obstruction can be the cause, i.e. bone spur or some other type of obstruction that is limiting your airway flow can lead to this same ailment.  An adequate examination by a qualified ENT surgeon should be able to give you a definite diagnosis. Best wishes on resolving this issue.

S. Randolph Waldman, MD
Lexington Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 14 reviews

Whistling nose

Rapid airflow through a narrow space in a nose will result in a whistling noise. The classic cause of this is a small septal perforation. Ask a nose expert / ENT surgeon to examine your nose with an endoscope to define your nasal anatomy and exclude a septal perforation. Hope this helps. 

Nasal whistling after rhinoplasty may be from congestion, mucous, swelling, a dissolvable suture or a septal perforation.

If you had septal cartilage harvested, or if you had a septoplasty with your rhinoplasty surgery, you may have a small hole in your septum. Septal perforations may sound like a high pitched whistle with breathing. Consider visiting a rhinoplasty specialist so you could see how best to proceed.
Wishing you well.

Dr. Joseph

Eric M. Joseph, MD
West Orange Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 396 reviews

Why does my nose whistle when I breathe?

Hi there,

If the sound is in fact a high pitched sound when you inhale deeply, the most likely cause is a perforation of your nasal septum.  You should follow up with your rhinoplasty surgeon or another rhinoplasty specialist if you aren't comfortable with the original surgeon so that a treatment plan can be devised if this is in fact the case.  Best of luck.

A. Joshua Zimm, MD
New York Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

Whistling in the nose

It would be helpful to know how far postop you are from your primary rhinoplasty. In the initial month or so after surgery, crusting can build up along the incision lines and this can create turbulent airflow throughout the nose leading to some level of whistling when breathing. Usually gently clearing these out will solve that problem. There are several other reasons why this can occur including a septal perforation. I would encourage you to follow up with your rhinoplasty surgeon to get a thorough evaluation to determine what is causing this issue for you. Hope this helps. Best of luck. 

Michael T. Somenek, MD
Washington DC Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Nasal whistling after primary rhinoplasty - what can cause this?

Hello ssbuddy,
I'm sorry to hear of your troubles.
Whistling through the nose after rhinoplasty is really due to 2 major possible causes.
Firstly, most patients receive reduction rhinoplasty to make smaller, more aesthetically pleasing noses.  Some patients are high risk for post-operative nasal airway narrowing.  As air has to move through these more narrowed spaces it speeds up flow.  As airspeed increases, the pitch of the flow increases, causing a whistling sound.  Have your surgeon evaluate you for post-operative nasal obstruction and define it's root cause so that a reasonable solution can be found.
The other cause of post-operative whistling is a septal perforation.  A septal perforation results from a hole in the septal cartilage after harvesting of the cartilage, typically in the treatment of septal deviation.  The mucosal lining of the nose is injured too much and heals poorly resulting in the hole.  As air passes, it whistles from the turbulence caused by the hole.  Have your surgeon evaluate you for this.
Depending on what is found, work on a plan with your surgeon, but if you don't feel comfortable, I recommend a consult with a specialist in revision rhinoplasty to come up with a plan that does make you feel comfortable.
Good luck,
Dr. Shah

Manish H. Shah, MD, FACS
Denver Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 47 reviews

Nose whistle after rhinoplasty

Thanks for the interesting question. I'm sure that many other people have had this same question- even those that have not had rhinoplasty surgery. For patients who have had rhinoplasty, the two most common causes are narrowing of the breathing passages secondary to scarring and septal perforation. When air moves through any space a sound is created. The more narrow the space, the higher pitch the noise. If there is an obstruction a noise may be created, regardless of the cause of the blockage. A perforation or hole in the nasal septum may also cause a noise for a different reason- turbulence. A physical exam performed by your rhinoplasty surgeon would help to determine the cause. The noise could be coming from something as simple to fix as removing some crusting within the nose. I hope this answer helps!
Good luck,
Dr. Harmych

Brian Harmych, MD
Cleveland Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

Why does my nose whistle when I breathe?

Would love to see a photo of your nose.  It sounds like you may have a pinched tip.  This can be corrected usually with cartilage grafts from ear to nose.  Without an exam and photos,we can only guess what is causing your problem.  Consult with your surgeon and express your concerns.  Best to you!

Robert E. Zaworski, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 55 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.