An ENT doctor, also known as an otolaryngologist, is a physician who specializes in the treatment of diseases and disorders that affect the ear, nose, and throat. This is one of the oldest medical specialties, and it includes some of the most common ailments. An ENT doctor spends about 15 years in school and training and may specialize in any one of the following subspecialties: pediatric otolaryngology, otology/neurotology, facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, allergy, head and neck, laryngology, and rhinology. Though an ENT doctor may run a general practice offering treatment in any of these areas, many choose just one area of focus.
An ENT doctor who specializes in pediatric otolaryngology may treat children with ear infections, hearing loss, birth defects affecting the head and neck, allergies, or asthma. An ENT who chooses to focus on otology/neurotology will treat patients with ear issues. These may include cancer of the ear, nerve pathway disorders, injury, swimmer's ear, or ringing in the ears. An otolaryngologist specializing in allergies works primarily with patients who suffer from sensitivity to pollen, dust, mold, or certain foods that results in hay fever, a chronic runny nose, sore throat, or sinusitis.
An ENT doctor who is interested in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery treats abnormalities of the face and neck for both cosmetic and functional reasons. These surgeries include nose jobs, face lifts, and cleft palate repair. The head and neck subspecialty deals with tumors in the head and neck. These are typically cancerous or noncancerous tumors of the thyroid and voice box.
Laryngology is the subspecialty of the ENT doctor whose primary focus is the throat. This may involve treatment of anything from a sore throat, voice problem, swallowing disorder, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The rhinology subspeciality refers to issues of the nose and sinuses such as nose bleeds, stuffy noses, loss of smell, and painful sinus problems.
ENT doctors are trained in surgery as well as standard treatment practices, so they are able care for patients from the time first symptoms occur through surgical procedures, if such invasive treatment is required. This sets them apart from other types of doctors who must refer patients to surgeons when treatment warrants it. For any patient who suffers from an ear, nose, or throat disorder and prefers to see only one doctor throughout treatment, an ENT doctor might be a better choice than a general physician.