What is an Otolaryngologist?
oh/toe/lair/in/goll/oh/jee) is the oldest medical specialty in the
United States. Otolaryngologists are physicians trained in the medical
and surgical management and treatment of patients with diseases and
disorders of the ear, nose, throat (ENT), and related structures of the
head and neck. They are commonly referred to as ENT physicians.
Their special skills include
diagnosing and managing diseases of the sinuses, larynx (voice box),
oral cavity, and upper pharynx (mouth and throat), as well as structures
of the neck and face. Otolaryngologists diagnose, treat, and manage
specialty-specific disorders as well as many primary care problems in
both children and adults.
What Do Otolaryngologists
loss affects one in ten North Americans. The unique domain of
otolaryngologists is the treatment of ear disorders. They are trained in
both the medical and surgical treatment of hearing, ear infections,
balance disorders, ear noise (tinnitus), nerve pain, and facial and
cranial nerve disorders. Otolaryngologists also manage congenital
(birth) disorders of the outer and inner ear.
35 million people develop chronic sinusitis each year, making it one of
the most common health complaints in America. Care of the nasal cavity
and sinuses is one of the primary skills of otolaryngologists.
Management of the nasal area includes allergies and sense of smell.
Breathing through, and the appearance of, the nose are also part of
(speech and singing) and eating a meal all involve this vital area. Also
specific to otolaryngologists is expertise in managing diseases of the
larynx (voice box) and the upper aero-digestive tract or esophagus,
including voice and swallowing disorders.
The Head and Neck—This
center of the body includes the important nerves that control sight,
smell, hearing, and the face. In the head and neck area,
otolaryngologists are trained to treat infectious diseases, both benign
and malignant (cancerous) tumors, facial trauma, and deformities of the
face. They perform both cosmetic plastic and reconstructive surgery.
Training and Patient Care
Otolaryngologists are ready to
start practicing after completing up to 15 years of college and
post-graduate training. To qualify for certification by the American
Board of Otolaryngology, an applicant must first complete college,
medical school (usually four years), and at least five years of
specialty training. Next, the physician must pass the American Board of
Otolaryngology examination. In addition, some otolaryngologists pursue a
one- or two- year fellowship for more extensive training in one of seven
These subspeciality areas are
pediatric otolaryngology (children), otology/neurotology (ears, balance,
and tinnitus), allergy, facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, head
and neck, laryngology (throat), and rhinology (nose). Some
otolaryngologists limit their practices to one of these seven areas.
What makes otolaryngologists
the most appropriate physicians to treat disorders of the ears, nose,
throat, and related structures of the head and neck?
These specialists differ from
many physicians in that they are trained in both medicine and surgery.
Otolaryngologists do not need to refer patients to other physicians when
ear, nose, throat, or head/neck surgery is needed and, therefore, can
offer the most appropriate care for each individual patient.
Diagnosis and Treatment in
Seven Areas of Expertise
diseases of the ear, including
trauma (injury), cancer, and nerve pathway disorders, which affect
hearing and balance.
Examples: ear infection;
swimmer's ear; hearing loss; ear, face, or neck pain; dizziness,
ringing in the ears (tinnitus).
diseases in children
with special ENT problems including birth defects in the head and neck
and developmental delays.
Examples: ear infection
(otitis media), tonsil and adenoid infection, airway problems,
Down’s syndrome, asthma and allergy/sinus disease.
Head and Neck:
cancerous and noncancerous tumors
in the head and neck, including the thyroid and parathyroid.
Examples: lump in the neck or
thyroid, cancer of the voice box.
Facial Plastic and
cosmetic, functional, and reconstructive surgical treatment of
abnormalities of the face and neck.
Examples: deviated septum,
rhinoplasty (nose), face lift, cleft palate, drooping eyelids, hair
disorders of the nose and sinuses.
Examples: sinus disorder, nose
bleed, stuffy nose, loss of smell.
disorders of the throat, including
voice and swallowing problems.
Examples: sore throat,
hoarseness, swallowing disorder, gastroesophageal reflux disease
treatment by medication,
immunotherapy (allergy shots) and/or avoidance of pollen, dust, mold,
food, and other sensitivities that affect the ear, nose, and throat.
Examples: hay fever, seasonal
and perennial rhinitis, chronic sinusitis, laryngitis, sore throat,
otitis media, dizziness.