An otolaryngologist is a medical doctor who specializes in diseases and disorders that effect the ear, nose, and throat. More commonly known as an ear, nose and throat specialist, or ENT, an otolaryngologist receives specialized medical training pertaining to the head and neck areas. Their medical specialty is otolaryngology.
Specializing in diagnosing and managing medical conditions effecting the sinuses, larynx, pharynx, ears, and other head and neck structures, an otolaryngologist sees patients for a broad range of conditions. These include hearing loss and chronic ear infections to sinusitis and they may even perform reconstructive surgery of the face in order to treat birth deformities. An otolaryngologist may also treat benign and malignant tumors of the face and neck, perform cochlear implants, treat sleep disorders, and provide treatment for a wide range of other conditions.
The training required to become an otolaryngologist begins with medical school and post-graduate training and is coupled with internships. It may take upwards of 10 to 15 years before a physician is ready to independently practice. In the United States, many otolaryngologists seek certification by the American Board of Otolaryngology, which requires college, medical school, and a minimum of five years of specialized training as well as passing a board exam.
Within this medical specialty, an otolaryngologist may further specialize in one of several areas of otolaryngology including pediatric ENT, otology and neurology, head and neck, and facial plastic surgery. An otolaryngologist is dual-trained in both medicine and surgery and may be even further trained in surgical procedures depending on their sub-specialty.
According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, this specialized area of medicine is the oldest specialty in the United States. Its roots as a medical specialty can be traced back to 1896. Other significant dates in otolaryngology history include the first documented tracheotomy in 1546 and the first of any type hearing aid was produced in 1898.
A licensed otolaryngologist may practice in a private or group practice as well as in a hospital setting. They treat both children and adults and often receive patients on referral from primary care physicians or pediatricians. Otolaryngologists may work with other specialists, such as respiratory or audiology specialists to manage certain conditions. Some people may visit an ENT on a regular basis and others may see an otolaryngologist only once or twice in a lifetime.
Those interested in entering this medical specialty or patients wishing to find board certified otolaryngologists can visit the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery’s website for more information.