If you’re an allergy sufferer experiencing pain, swelling or soreness in your ear, nose or throat, your family doctor may refer you to a physician who specializes in these areas. These specialists are called otolaryngologists or ENT (ear, nose and throat) physicians. Believe it or not, otolaryngology is the oldest specialty of medical practices in the United States.
An otolaryngologist diagnoses, manages and treats diseases and conditions in your ears, sinuses, nose, larynx, throat and mouth, as well as the structures that make up your face and neck. If you have pain, discomfort or swelling in any of these areas, visit your local Manhattan otolaryngologist. Your general practitioner may be able to help you with basic pain and other issues, but for conditions beyond the scope of his abilities, you need to schedule an appointment with an ENT doctor.
Areas Otolaryngologists Diagnose and Treat
ENT doctors treat specific conditions related to your:
- Ears: In the United States, one in 10 people suffers from some form of hearing loss. Otolaryngologists are uniquely qualified to treat ear disorders and conditions. Their training prepares them for medical diagnosis and treatment — including surgery, if needed — of ear infections, hearing loss, balance issues, cranial nerve abnormalities and excessive ear noise, known as tinnitus. Otolaryngologists can treat congenital disorders with your inner and outer ear too.
- Nose: Approximately 35 million Americans experience some form of chronic sinusitis every year, putting it at the top of the list of health complaints nationwide. You may have experienced nasal issues like allergies, seasonal congestion and stuffiness or chronic issues from a deviated septum. Additional problems you may experience in the nasal cavity area include polyps, smell disorder and nasal obstruction due to injury or other medical conditions. Otolaryngologists are skilled at dealing with all the issues associated with your sinuses and nasal cavity.
- Throat: Your throat doesn’t just allow you to breathe; it allows blood to flow into your brain and the rest of your head. Your throat permits you to eat and communicate, although not necessarily at the same time. Otolaryngologists specialize in healing your throat, especially for issues pertaining to swallowing and voice disorders. ENT doctors deal with your voice box, called the larynx, and your esophagus, which is your upper digestive tract. Your family doctor can recognize symptoms of these areas, but may refer you to an otolaryngologist for a second opinion or a more thorough diagnosis and treatment.
- Head and Neck: Your head and neck contain sensitive organs and arteries. Your head provides those important functions related to sight, hearing and smell. Otolaryngologists treat head and neck issues including non-cancerous and cancerous tumors, deformities, facial trauma and injury. They can treat the cosmetic appearance of your face by performing both reconstructive and cosmetic surgery for your face, head and neck area.
Training ENT Doctors
The educational path of ENT doctors isn’t an easy one. They have to study for up to 15 years in college and post-graduate institutes before they can practice as professional, licensed otolaryngologists. That’s a long commitment.
The certification for the American Board of Otolaryngology sets rigorous requirements, which includes earning a four-year college degree at an accredited university, graduating from a four-year medical school and then participating for at least five years of specialized training. After that, the physician must pass the American Board of Otolaryngology’s examination to become a certified ENT doctor.
Specialty Areas of ENT Doctors
Some otolaryngologists also study an additional year or two in a fellowship to receive even more specialized training. The eight specialized areas of otolaryngology are:
- Reconstructive Surgery and Facial Plastic
- Neck and Head
- Pediatric Otolaryngology
- Sleep Issues
For an overview of each of the specialty area, consider the primary health issues that an ENT doctor treats:
- Reconstructive Surgery and Facial Plastic: This specialty deals mostly with disorders in your neck, face or ear that require functional, cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. These ENT surgeons treat cosmetic nose issues, deviated septums, cleft palates, excess facial skin and wrinkles, hair loss, drooping eyelids and other abnormalities.
- Allergy: ENT doctors specializing in allergies offer immunotherapy, which includes the use of allergy shots, and other medications. They provide education about what items to avoid — like mold, pollen and dust. These otolaryngologists are trained in other sensitivities of your nose, ear and throat. ENT specialists also treat perennial and seasonal rhinitis, hay fever, laryngitis, chronic sinusitis, otitis media, dizziness and sore throat.
- Otology/Neurotology: Otolaryngologists in this specialty can deal with trauma and diseases in your ears, including benign tumors, infections and nerve disorders that can affect your balance and hearing. These ENT doctors treat swimmer’s ear, ear infection, hearing loss, ringing in your ears, dizziness and pain in your ear, face or neck.
- Neck and Head: This specialty focuses on treating non-cancerous and cancerous tumors on your neck and head — whether in your sinus, nose, throat, mouth, upper esophagus or voice box. These ENT doctors learn to treat cancer of your larynx and lumps in your thyroid or neck.
- Pediatric Otolaryngology: These specialists treat diseases in kids with ENT disorders — including birth defects in their necks and heads, as well as developmental delays. These ENT doctors are trained in treating ear infections in children, adenoid and tonsil infections, asthma, airway conditions, sinus/allergy disease and tumors of the neck.
- Laryngology: Otolaryngology specialists handle abnormalities of your throat, such as swallowing problems and voice issues. These ENT doctors treat hoarseness, swallowing issues, sore throat, GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease), tumors and infections.
- Rhinology: Doctors of this specialty deal with abnormalities of your sinuses and nose. These ENT doctors treat nose bleeds and sinus issues, stuffy nose, polyps, loss of smell, tumors and any other conditions that affect your breathing.
- Sleep Disorders: ENT doctors of this specialty work with people who have sleep apnea and snoring issues. Both can be symptoms of serious underlying conditions, and additionally, both keep you from getting the sleep you need.
Reasons to Visit an ENT Doctor
ENT doctors are specialists who’ve trained in both surgery and medicine. Otolaryngologists can treat all your ear, nose and throat issues. Make an appointment with an otolaryngologist to breathe easier.