Ear, Nose & Throat

What Is an Otolaryngologist?

Thu, May 18, 2023

What Is an Otolaryngologist?

What are ear, nose, and throat doctors called? This is a common question, and while they are most often called ENTs to make it easier, the medical term for this kind of specialist is otolaryngologist. The otolaryngologists at NCSH are trained physicians and surgeons who treat conditions that affect all of the structures of the ears, sinuses, nose, and throat.

What is Otolaryngology?

A hospital hallway shows a staff member washing his hands and another walking toward him.Otolaryngology is an area of medical specialty. It focuses on the diagnosis, management, and treatment of conditions of the ear, nose, and throat. To reflect the fact that these specialists are both medical physicians and surgeons, the discipline is also sometimes called otolaryngology—head and neck surgery.

The ear, nose, and throat make up a connected system in the body that consists of several smaller systems. The tissues in this part of the body are complicated, delicate, and small. A specialist is best positioned to treat and manage issues that arise there.

Within the otolaryngology specialty, laryngologists focus on the larynx, pharynx, and surrounding area. This includes conditions associated with speaking, swallowing, and breathing. Rhinologists specialize in nose and sinus conditions.

Otolaryngologists do not treat conditions or symptoms associated with the brain, eyes, spine, or blood vessels. They often collaborate with specialists in these areas to provide a patient with comprehensive care.

What Does an Otolaryngologist Do?

Like physicians in other specialties, otolaryngologists, or ENTs, evaluate patients, diagnose conditions, and develop and implement treatment plans. They provide both medical treatments and surgery when necessary.

Otolaryngologists treat many conditions. According to statistics, the three most common reasons patients visit otolaryngologists are for hearing difficulties, earaches or infections, and congestion. Nearly one-third of patients have chronic issues that require treatment.

The many conditions they treat include:


  • Chronic ear infections
  • Earaches
  • Impacted ear wax
  • Vertigo
  • Tinnitus
  • Hearing loss
  • Ruptured eardrums
  • Bone fractures
  • Inner ear conditions


  • Chronic sinus infections
  • Sinus pressure and jaw pain
  • Nasal polyps
  • Deviated septums


  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Chronic sore throat
  • Throat cancer
  • Esophageal and swallowing disorders
  • Vocal cord disorders
  • Laryngitis
  • Snoring
  • Airway disorders

Head and Neck

  • Head and neck tumors
  • Facial deformities or trauma
  • Thyroid conditions

Because some of the conditions associated with the ear, nose, and throat often disrupt sleep, otolaryngologists also may treat patients with sleep disorders, like obstructive sleep apnea.

What Surgical Treatments Do Otolaryngologists Provide?

While nonsurgical treatments are often preferred, many patients with ENT conditions need surgery to relieve symptoms. Skilled ENTs can perform several surgical procedures to correct structural problems and treat disorders. Some common ENT surgeries include:

  • Balloon sinuplasty
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS)
  • Functional rhinoplasty
  • Laryngoscopy
  • Myringotomy tubes or ear ventilation tubes
  • Parotidectomy
  • Septoplasty (nasal septum surgery)
  • Sinus surgery
  • Temporal artery biopsy
  • Thyroid surgery
  • Tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy
  • Turbinectomy
  • Tympanoplasty

What Training Do Otolaryngologists Have?

Otolaryngologists are medical doctors, so they have completed medical school. They then complete a residency in otolaryngology for three to five years. Some go on to complete fellowships for a subspecialty.

Many otolaryngologists are board-certified. The certifying agency for these specialists is the American Board of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery. Board-certified otolaryngologists are physicians and surgeons.

When to See an Otolaryngologist

You could benefit from seeing an ENT specialist if you have symptoms associated with any of the conditions they treat. Some common signs and symptoms that might lead you to see an otolaryngologist include:

  • Chronic ear pain or infections
  • Hearing loss
  • Dizziness or changes in balance
  • Ear ringing
  • Chronic sinus infections or congestion
  • Chronic snoring
  • Lumps in the neck
  • Chronic hoarseness or sore throat

You might want to see your primary care provider first. They can confirm that you need to see a specialist.

If you have any symptoms or ongoing concerns about your ear, nose, and throat health, the board-certified otolaryngologists—head and neck surgeons at NCSH can help. Learn more about ENT services at NCSH and contact us to request an appointment with a specialist.

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