An ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT) is a highly-trained, medical professional that specializes in and treats a patient's ears, nose, and throat health, as well as other areas of the head and neck. ENTs, or otolaryngologists, can diagnose and treat a variety of problems and medical conditions related to these areas of the body. But what exactly can an ENT doctor treat? And how do you know you need to go see an ear, nose, throat specialist? Here you'll find everything you need to know about what an ENT does, how an ENT doctor can help with your ears, nose, and throat health, and when it's time to go see one of these specialists.
Why Ear, Nose, and Throat Health Matters
Back in the 1800s, doctors and scientists discovered that the ears, nose, and throat are all connected through an intricate system of passages, tubes, and connections. It was from this discovery that the field of an ENT doctor was born. Your ears, nose, and throat have a strong influence over a variety of systems and functions in the body. The health of these areas can affect the following:
- Speech and hearing
- Swallowing, eating, and digestion
- Balance, pain, and physical appearance
- Breathing, smelling, and sight
- Areas of sleep
Common Ear, Nose, and Throat Problems
An ENT doctor can treat an array of issues and complications related to the ears, nose, throat, and head. Some of the most common problems an ENT doctor specializes in include:
- Ear conditions: According to Everyday Health, ENT specialists can "treat congenital disorders of the ear (disorders you were born with)," as well as hearing impairment, infections of the ears, problems or disorders that affect your balance, pain in the ear, and ringing in the ears (tinnitus).
- Nose conditions: Ear, nose, and throat specialists can help patients manage issues in the nasal cavity, sinuses, or other parts of the nose. These issues with the nose can affect your physical appearance, breathing, and your sense of smell.
- Throat conditions: If you have problems with speech, eating, swallowing, or digestion, an ENT can diagnose and treat a variety of throat problems.
- Head and neck conditions: An ENT specialist is trained to also manage trauma, tumors, and deformities that are related to the neck and head. This can include cosmetic surgery and even nerve treatment for hearing, smelling, and facial movements.
In addition, many ENTs can help treat a variety of problems and may specialize in other areas of otolaryngology, such as:
- Allergies: ENT specialists can help treat environmental allergies and help diagnose food allergies, according to WebMD.
- Pediatrics: Children may require special care, which ENTs are trained to handle. ENTs can also address developmental delays and birth defects related to the ear, nose, and throat.
- Audiology: ENTs can specialize in or help with a variety of hearing problems.
- Reconstructive surgery of the face: Some ENT specialists can do special surgeries on the face for cosmetic reasons and aptly trained to work around the areas of the face.
- Laryngology (throat, voice, and swallowing): ENTs who handle laryngology treat injuries and diseases that affect your voice, vocal cords, and voice box.
- Rhinology (nose and sinus cavity): Specially trained to deal with everything nose-related, ENTs treat sinusitis, growths, and problems with stuffiness and smell.
There are a variety of treatment options for issues related to the ears, nose, and throat. Your ENT may prescribe medications like antibiotics for infections. Other issues like may require different types of medications. ENT doctors are also trained to perform specialized surgeries that can remove or treat the tonsils, adenoids, and more. Here are some of the most common treatment options for ear, nose, and throat related problems:
Medication and Devices:
Complications like allergies and sinuses may be helped with the aid of antibiotics, allergy medications, and other prescriptions. On the other hand, specialized devices like CPAP machines can be prescribed for people with abnormal airways and/or sleep apnea. For those with hearing loss or impairment, ENT doctors can diagnose and provide the tools necessary to hear again.
Surgery: For frequent ear infections or ear infections that affect hearing or speech, an ENT doctor may surgically add tubes inside the ears to ventilate them and prevent future problems. Tonsils and/or adenoids that are causing recurring strep, infections, or other issues may be surgically removed by an ENT surgeon. According to ENT Health, ENT doctors can also perform surgeries to correct physical appearances of the face and neck caused by trauma, paralysis, cancer, and more. The surgical specialties of ENTs are not limited to these, however, and can include numerous other types of procedures.
As with all other specialties, ENT doctors do everything in their power to avoid more serious treatment options and surgery. Many issues may be treated with medication or other means before a decision for surgery is made. And the treatment each patient receives is dependent on many factors, such as your diagnosis, medical history, and more.
When to See an ENT
An ENT can help manage most problems related to the ears, nose, and throat. When symptoms in these areas persist, it is important that you seek the help of a doctor who specializes in those symptoms. You should always seek the help of an ear, nose, throat specialist if you have any of the following problems or concerns:
- Injuries related to the ears, nose, or throat
- Nerve problems or pain in these areas
- Problems with balance or dizziness
- Frequent or returning ear infections
- Infection of the tonsils or adenoids
- Impaired hearing
- Breathing problems or asthma
- Sinus complications
- A deviated septum
- Growths or suspected tumors
- Nasal congestion or nose bleeds
- Trouble swallowing or voice problems
The health of your ears, nose, and throat is vital, and if you have any symptoms or concerns related to these areas of the body, it's important to address them right away. To help you answer any questions and address any concerns you may have, it is important to seek the advice and counsel of a local ENT doctor. These doctors have spent years training in their area and specialize in everything related to the health of your ears, nose, and throat.