The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS), claims that otolaryngology is the oldest medical specialty in the United States.
The word otorhinolaryngology or its shorter form, otolaryngology, is derived from the Greek root words: otos (ear), rhino (nose), laryngo (windpipe) and logos (science).
So an otorhinolaryngologist is a physician who studied, trained in, and treats diseases of the ear, nose, throat, face, head and neck. The popular acronym for this specialty branch of medicine is ENT, or an ear, nose, and throat specialist. All three terms are used interchangeably.
Each organ is minute, delicate and plays a vital role in a healthy body. For example, inner ear bones can be as small as a single grain of rice. Hence highly specialized training, precision and attention to detail is needed in the treatment of the relevant organs to maintain functions like speech, voice, hearing, tasting, and breathing.
Primary care physicians refer patients who suffer deviant functioning of the ear, nose, larynx, throat, mouth, head and neck to ENT specialists.
What Body Parts do Otorhinolaryngologists Treat?
Otorhinolaryngologists diagnose, treat and manage diseases of the ears, nose, sinuses, larynx (voice box), mouth, and throat, as well as structures of the neck and face.
This body part is an exclusive domain of otolaryngologists. They uniquely train in both medical and surgical treatments of hearing loss, ear infections, balance disorders (vertigo), ringing ears (tinnitus), and some cranial nerve disorders. They also handle congenital auditory disorders.
Sinusitis is one of the most common health complaints in America. Otorhinolaryngologists take care of the nasal cavity and sinuses. Nasal disorders include smell, growths or polyps, and problems due to a deviated septum.
Otolaryngologists are experts in managing diseases of the throat, larynx, and esophagus, including voice, speech, and swallowing difficulties.
Head and Neck
The high sensory functions of sight, smell, hearing, taste, as well as appearance are all concentrated in the face. Otolaryngologists treat infections, benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous) tumors, facial trauma, and deformities. They sometimes perform both cosmetic plastic and reconstructive surgery.
Areas of Expertise in Otolaryngology
- Allergy – treatment by medication, immunotherapy, or controlling of trigger factors.
- Facial plastic and reconstructive surgery – on face, neck, or ear for medical, cosmetic, functional or reconstructive reasons.
- Head and Neck – diseases, tumors, trauma, infectious diseases and deformities of the head, neck, and face. ENT specialists perform cosmetic and reconstructive surgery in these areas. They manage problems with the nerves in the head and neck that control sight, smelling, hearing, and facial movements.
- Laryngology – disorders of the throat and voicebox, including speech, singing, eating, swallowing, and digestion.
- Otology/neurotology – disorders of the ear, including nerve disorders, hearing and balance.
- Pediatric otolaryngology – ENT diseases in children, including birth defects and developmental issues.
- Rhinology – disorders of the nose and sinuses.
- Sleep medicine is a sub-specialty in which some otolaryngologists have received certification.
When Should You go to an ENT Specialist?
ENT specialists are uniquely trained in both medicine and surgery, and do not need to refer patients who need surgery for ear, nose, throat, or head/neck conditions. They are the appropriate physicians for these problems as they can provide comprehensive, hands-on care.
If you or a loved one displays the following symptoms you should take them to an otorhinolaryngologist:
- Trauma or injury to ears, nose, or throat
- Neural problems in ears, nose, or throat
- Pain in ears, nose, or throat
- Vertigo, dizziness or difficulty maintaining balance
- Hearing difficulty or loss
- Ear, tonsils, sinus or adenoid infections
- Water in the ear or swimmer’s ear
- Ringing ears or Tinnitus
- Ear, nose, or throat birth defects
- Breathing problems
- Down’s syndrome
- Asthma or allergy symptoms
- Growth or tumor in ears, nose, or throat
- Abnormalities or deformities of nose or face
- Cleft palate or deviated septum
- Drooping eyelids
- Nose bleeds
- Nasal congestion
- Problems with smell
- Difficulty speaking or swallowing
- Sore or hoarse throat
If you or someone you know is experiencing a problem that affects your ears, nose, throat, or a related area, contact Intercoastal Medical Group at one of our area locations or request an appointment online.