Why there is a common specialist for ear, nose and throat?

Ear, nose and throat of the human body are interlinked through a complex system of tubes and passages; hence, a health issue in one part has the potential of impacting the other. Because these three organs are interconnected, they are medically treated by the same specialist known as an ENT doctor or in accurate medical terminology called an otolaryngologist.

What is an otolaryngologist?

An otolaryngologist has medical specialities in diagnosing and treating disease, injuries, infections and other problems related to the ear, nose or throat.

Some of the common problems that come under the purview of ENT specialists or an otolaryngologist include (but are not limited to):

  • Infections of the ear nose and throat
  • Hearing loss
  • Trouble with balance
  • Tonsillitis
  • Dizziness
  • Asthma
  • Allergy
  • Deviated Septum
  • Hair loss
  • Nose bleeds
  • Nasal congestion
  • Smell problems
  • Cleft palate
  • Breathing problems
  • Swimmer’s ear
  • Nerve problems of the ear, nose and throat
  • Problems in swallowing or drinking
  • Vocal issues
  • Strep Throat
  • Sinusitis
  • Infections and tumours of the head and neck
  • Snoring issue
  • Obstructive sleep apnea

An otolaryngologist specialised training in the branch of medical science called otolaryngology, which involves diagnosing and treating conditions and problems related to any of the below organs such as:

  • Ears: All infections, allergies, hearing disorders, etc.
  • Nose: Problems such as chronic sinusitis, nasal cavity issues, allergies, problems of smell, etc.
  • Throat: Diseases and issues related to the laryngeal and upper oesophagal, as well as vocal issues, swallowing problems
  • Head and neck: Otolaryngology also involves treating problems of the face, head and neck including infections, bacterial infections, trauma, injury, deformities and tumour. However, for some specific problems, a multi-speciality approach may be required.

An otolaryngologist can also have specialist training in one of the below areas:

  • Allergic treatment through medication, immunotherapy, etc.
  • Surgery of the face, neck, ear for various reasons such as cosmetic, functional or reconstruction
  • Tumour removal
  • Throat management
  • Ear disorders and problems such as tumours, nerve issues affecting hearing and balance’
  • ENT specialist for children
  • Nose and sinus disorder management

What are the common procedures undertaken by an otolaryngologist?

Some of the common procedures performed by an otolaryngologist to treat various conditions and problems related to the nose, ear, throat or other related structures include:

Blepharoplasty: An ENT specialist performs this procedure to repair dropping eyelids. This is done by removing extra skin, muscle or fat tissue which clouds the eyelid. A blepharoplasty also helps to improve vision and overall appearance.

Endoscope Sinus Surgery: An otolaryngologist can treat infectious and inflammatory sinus issues by inserting a flexible instrument called an endoscope. The doctor uses this instrument to see the sinus and then guides various surgical instruments such as laser to remove the blockage.

Biopsy: An ENT specialist is also equipped to perform a biopsy to assess for cancer, tumour or any other abnormal growth by taking a piece of tissue from the concerned organ.

Plastic Surgery: When required, an otolaryngologist can also perform plastic surgery for reconstructive or cosmetic purposes; however, this requires additional training. Such surgeries are performed to treats conditions involving cleft palates, congenital deformities, remove accident scars, etc.

Myringotomy and pressure equalization (PE): An ENT doctor recommends this procedure for patients who tend to experience frequent ear infections or are suffering from a loss of hearing due to building up of excessive fluid in the ear. The doctor uses a tube and passes it through the eardrum to release the pressure of it.

Septoplasty: A surgical procedure performed to correct a deviated septum or allow more nasal access, enabling removal of polyps. A septoplasty involves separating the nasal passage from the surrounding cartilage to correct the deviation.

Surgery for sleep-related issues: Sleep-related issues such as snoring and obstructive sleep apnea can be effectively treated by an otolaryngologist through surgery. In the case of snoring, the doctor will remove the excess soft palate tissue, allowing proper functioning of the airway. Alternatively, the surgeon can also inject the palate or insert rods to make it stiffer and reduce vibration respectively.

Thyroid Surgery: An ENT specialist can treat thyroid problems by removing a part or whole of the thyroid gland, as per the need of the case. This surgical procedure is very useful in treating thyroid cancers, suspicious lumps, obstruction of the oesophagus, and others.

Tonsillectomy: In this surgical procedure, the specialist removes the tonsils or problematic adenoids to treat infection and breathing problems respectively.

Tracheostomy: In this procedure, the surgeon inserts a tube through the neck to reach the windpipe and make an opening of an airway or remove lung secretions. 

Apart from these, an ENT specialist can perform several other procedures to cure problems related to the ear, nose, throat and related structures.