What Exactly Is An Ear, Nose, And Throat Specialist?

Ear, nose, and throat specialists (ENT) are also known as otolaryngologists. An ear, nose, and throat doctor’s main goal is to diagnose and treat conditions affecting both the respiratory and digestive systems. These conditions include allergies, food intolerances, sinusitis, tonsillitis, laryngitis, hearing loss, cleft palate, sleep apnea, snoring, water in the ears, nasal obstruction, chronic coughs, or sore throats.

What Do They Do?

They can provide a wide range of treatments, such as using medication or surgery to unclog sinuses or remove tonsils. Some ENT doctors place small tubes inside swollen sinuses that allow them to drain while one sleeps. For more severe cases, they might prescribe surgery.

The American Academy of Otolaryngology suggests that everyone should see an ENT specialist at least once or twice in their lives. Their expertise is in diagnosing and treating ear, nose, and throat discomforts that are typically not related to primary care doctors. For example, if your primary care doctor diagnoses you with upper respiratory symptoms like allergies and hearing loss, he will usually refer you to an ENT specialist for treatment options.

Similarly, if your primary care doctor diagnoses you with a digestive system complication, they will usually refer you to an ear, nose, and throat specialist for treatment options.

Ear, nose, and throat specialists use special equipment when examining patients’ ears, including microscopes, otoscopes, nasal speculas, tuning forks, pneumatic otoscopes, acoustic reflectometers, and fiber-optic laryngoscopes.

ENT specialists also use special equipment for examinations of the pharynx, mouth, tonsils, and glands. Some of the equipment they use includes a wide range of surgical instruments such as lasers, cryosurgery probes, microdebriders, or Hirschberg intubation forceps.

How To Become One

To become an ENT specialist, you will need to attend college for four years earning a bachelor’s degree in at least one science area. In these four years, you must take courses that include English/writing classes, literature courses, or seminars in composition, including biology, chemistry, or physics. Unfortunately, after you graduate from college and earn your bachelor’s degree, you still will not qualify to become an ENT. This is because of the next step of training in medical school.

Ear, nose, and throat specialists must complete four years in medical school, earning a Doctor of Medicine (MD). You will get extensive schooling in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and pathology during this time. You must also do clinical rotations for at least three months in otolaryngology.

The final step to becoming an ear, nose, and throat specialist is a rigorous one-year residency program in general otolaryngology or head and neck surgery. Your program director may let you choose which area of study best suits you.

It generally takes around twelve years after high school to become an ear, nose, and throat specialist, including four years of college, four years in medical school, and one year as an intern/resident. However, ear, nose, and throat specialists can expect good job growth over the next ten years due to a large aging population experiencing an increase in allergies, chronic sinusitis, and hearing loss.

What Are The Benefits?

There are many benefits to becoming an ENT, such as working closely with patients helping them feel better through both medication and surgery. You also perform operations on all parts of the head and neck region, which makes this career very interesting for those who enjoy hands-on tasks.    

ENT specialists can also expect to make a much higher income than the average American. According to the United States Department of Labor, ear, nose, and throat specialists earned an annual median pay over double the national average income for all occupations per year.

Ear, nose, and throat specialists must analyze problems concerning the head and neck region, including ears, noses, and throats. They must also have excellent observation skills to correctly diagnose their patients’ issues. During patient examinations, ear, nose, and throat specialists must use special equipment such as microscopes and surgical instruments. In addition, they must stay up-to-date on research findings to provide patients with the most effective treatments available. These are just a few of the skills needed to become an ear, nose, and throat specialist.

Ear, nose, and throat specialists generally work full-time hours in an office or medical center. They usually work at least forty hours per week but may need to spend additional time working in surgery centers or other facilities required for treatment. There are traditionally no dangerous aspects associated with this career; however, you must follow all safety precautions while using surgical instruments. 

In Closing

ENT specialists must also ensure they keep up-to-date on changes in medical technology required by new laws or research findings related to operations to avoid potential errors which can pose severe risks to patients.

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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.
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