What is otolaryngology?
Otolaryngology (pronounced oh/toe/lair/in/goll/oh/jee) is the oldest medical specialty in the US. 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.
What do otolaryngologists treat?
Otolaryngologists diagnose and manage diseases of the ears, nose, sinuses, larynx (voice box), mouth, and throat, as well as structures of the neck and face.
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 loss, ear infections, balance disorders, ear noise (tinnitus), and some cranial nerve disorders. Otolaryngologists also manage congenital (birth) disorders of the outer and inner ear.
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. Problems in the nasal area include allergies, smell disorders, polyps, and nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum.
Communicating (speech and singing) and eating a meal all involve this vital area. Specific to otolaryngologists is expertise in managing diseases of the throat, larynx (voice box), and the upper aero-digestive tract or esophagus, including voice and swallowing disorders.
The head and neck
This area of the body includes the important functions of sight, smell, hearing, and the appearance of the face. In the head and neck area, otolaryngologists are trained to treat infections, benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous) tumors, facial trauma, and deformities of the face. They perform both cosmetic plastic and reconstructive surgery.
How are ear, nose, and throat specialists trained?
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 (four years), medical school (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 eight subspecialty areas.
These subspecialty areas are allergy, facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, head and neck, laryngology (throat), otology/neurotology (ears, balance, and tinnitus), pediatric otolaryngology (children), rhinology (nose), and sleep disorders. Some otolaryngologists limit their practices to one of these eight areas.
Why should I see an otolaryngologist?
Otolaryngologists are trained in both medicine and surgery. They 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. Otolaryngologists are the most appropriate physicians to treat disorders of the ears, nose, throat, and related structures of the head and neck.
What other criteria should I consider when choosing an otolaryngologist in my area?
- Medical education and training
- Licenses or board certification
- Practice areas
- Areas of specialty or subspecialties
- Insurance coverage
What is an Audiologist?
An audiologist is a professional who diagnoses and treats hearing and balance problems. An audiologist has received an Au.D. (Doctorate in Audiology), or a Master's or Doctoral degree from an accredited university graduate program in audiology.
Audiologists are trained to diagnose, manage and treat hearing or balance problems for individuals from birth through adulthood.
If you or a family member suspect that you have a hearing problem or a balance problem, contact an audiologist. After carefully reviewing your health history and evaluating your hearing, an audiologist will determine whether your condition might be medically treatable and will refer you to an appropriate professional. If your condition is not medically treatable, he or she will review any recommendations for audiologic care or treatment which may include hearing aids, aural rehabilitiation or balance therapy.
How do I know if I have a hearing loss?
If you answer yes to more than two of the following questions, you should have your hearing evaluated further by a certified audiologist:
- Do you have a problem hearing over the telephone?
- Do you hear better through one ear than the other when you are on the phone?
- Do you have trouble following conversations with two+ people talking at the same time?
- Do people complain that you turn the TV volume up too high?
- Do you strain to understand conversation?
- Do you have trouble hearing in a noisy background?
- Do you have trouble hearing in restaurants?
- Do you have dizziness, pain, or ringing in your ears?
- Do you find yourself asking people to repeat themselves?
- Do family members or coworkers remark about your missing what has been said?
- Do many people you talk to seem to mumble (or not speak clearly)?
- Do you misunderstand what others are saying and respond inappropriately?
- Do you have trouble understanding the speech of women and children?
- Do people get annoyed because you misunderstand what they say? (http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/Self-Test-for-Hearing-Loss/)