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What is an Otolaryngologist-Head and
Insight into ear, nose, and throat specialists
Otolaryngology (pronounced 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 Treat?
The Ears-Hearing 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.
The Nose-About 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 otolaryngologists' expertise.
The Throat-Communicating (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 subspecialty areas.
These subspecialty 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 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 non-cancerous tumors in the head and neck, including
the thyroid and parathyroid.
Examples: lump in the neck or thyroid,
cancer of the voice box.
and Reconstructive Surgery: cosmetic, functional, and reconstructive
surgical treatment of abnormalities of the face and neck.
Examples: deviated septum, rhinoplasty
(nose), face-lift, cleft palate, drooping eyelids, and hair
disorders of the nose and sinuses.
Examples: sinus disorder, nosebleed,
stuffy nose, loss of smell.
disorders of the throat, including voice and swallowing problems.
Examples: sore throat, hoarseness, swallowing
disorder, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
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