Otolaryngologists, or ear, nose & throat doctors, are trained to specialize in conditions affecting the structures of the head and neck, including the ears, nose and throat - from post-nasal drip to cancer.

Watch an Overview of Otolaryngology

About ENT / Otolaryngology

Otolaryngologists, more commonly known as ENT (ear, nose, and throat) doctors, are trained in the management (both medical and surgical) and treatment of diseases and disorders of the ear, nose, throat, head and neck. More specifically, ENT physicians are trained in diagnosis and treatment of disorders pertaining to the sinuses, mouth and throat (upper pharynx), voice box (larynx), and anatomies of the head and neck.

Otolaryngologists play a vital role in the treatment of hearing disorders - according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology some type of hearing loss affects approximately 10% of Americans. An ENT’s training enables them to diagnose, treat and manage ear infections, equilibrium problems (balance), tinnitus (noises in the ear) and nerve pain and disorders.

According to the AAOHNS, approximately 35 million Americans contract chronic sinusitis each year—making it one of the most common disorders treated by an ENT physician. These physicians specialize in the treatment of the nasal area and sinuses, allowing them to treat allergies and complications of the nasal cavity and related breathing structures.

ENT physicians also specialize in the treatment and management of diseases and disorders of the throat including throat cancer, laryngitis, dysphonia (hoarseness), Reinke’s edema, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), swallowing disorders and vocal cord disorders, among others. Some of the procedures performed include: esophagoscopy (correction of swallowing problems), laryngeal lesion biopsy, injection treatments for paralyzed vocal cords, videostroboscopy (evaluation of the voice), laryngeal injections (treatment of spasmodic dysphonia), and procedures to treat laryngeal papillomas, among others.

Otolaryngologists also specialize in the treatment and management of head and neck disorders, such as: infectious diseases, malignant tumors, benign tumors, various oral cancers, trauma to the face, thyroid disorders (including cancer), sleep apnea, masses and lumps of the neck, throat and neck infections (such as abscess formation), lymph node complications, salivary gland complications, and facial deformities. ENT physicians are trained to perform a wide range of surgeries to treat these complications, disorders and diseases.

ENT / Otolaryngology Education & Training

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, otolaryngologists (commonly referred to as ear, nose and throat or ENT physicians), are properly trained and prepared to treat patients following up to 15 years of collegiate and post-graduate training. A typical otolaryngologist must complete a bachelor’s degree (generally four years of study), an MD or DO medical degree (four years), and at least five years of specialized training in the form of a residency and/or fellowship.

Following graduation from medical school, the physician must complete a residency program in otolaryngology, which includes surgical training. During residency training, the physician will spend approximately one year in general surgery and four years of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery. Otolaryngology residents gain clinical experience in the examination of the structures of the head and neck, as well as the diagnosis and treatment of common and rare conditions affecting the head, neck, ear, nose and throat. Residents are also exposed to clinical rotations in rhinology/allergy, neurotology and laryngology, among others.

Following residency training, the otolaryngologist may choose to pursue additional training in the form of a fellowship. The physician may enter fellowships in areas such as head and neck oncology, laryngology/bronchoesophagology, neurotology and skull base surgery, rhinology and advanced sinus surgery, pediatric otolaryngology, facial plastic surgery, sleep medicine, or rhinology and advanced sinus surgery. Many otolaryngologists pursue board certification from the American Board of Otolaryngology. In order to practice medicine, the otolaryngologist must be issued a medical license from the state(s) in which they provide care.