Being able to listen to music, smell a gas leak, or even sing at the top of your voice are all everyday things that you probably didn’t notice you could do easily. If you lose the ability to do any of these things, life can become difficult. Hopefully, you’ll have a good ENT specialist or an ear, nose and throat doctor to help you. You might have visited one before to treat a blocked nose or clogged ears, but ENT doctors do more than just treat the common cold.
An ENT doctor, also known as an otolaryngologist, is a medical specialist who treats conditions affecting the ear, nose and throat, such as hearing and balance, swallowing and speech, breathing and sleep issues, allergies and sinuses, head and neck cancer, and facial plastic surgery. Let’s take a deeper look at what ENT is in medical terms.
What Does An ENT Doctor Do?
ENT specialists treat conditions and disorders in the ears, nose, throat, head, and neck region. They can handle any type of severity of cases for patients of all ages. During the initial consultation, ENTs perform tests to determine the cause of the problem. Some of these tests include:
- Audiometric testing for hearing loss or balance issues
- Nasal endoscopy to examine the inside of the nose and look for abnormalities
- Nasal exam to examine tissues in the nose and the septum
- Neck exam to check lymph nodes, thyroid gland and salivary glands
- Pressure testing the eardrum for fluid, which may cause hearing loss
- Voicebox examination
What Conditions Does An ENT Doctor Treat?
ENTs determine the cause of an allergy and prescribe treatment. They prescribe immunotherapy, or allergy shots, to boost a patient’s tolerance to allergens and reduce symptoms.
- Ear infections
ENTs treat ear infections, tinnitus, which is ringing in the ears, and remove wax or objects lodged inside the ear.
- Balance disorders
The inner ear contains fluid and tiny sensors that help you maintain a sense of balance. The fluid moves up and down as you move, letting your brain know which direction you’re facing. Damage to the fluid and sensors caused by infection or inflammation within your ears can make you feel unsteady and dizzy. An ENT diagnoses the cause of your dizziness and provides the treatment.
- Hearing loss
ENTs work with audiologists to provide treatment for hearing loss.
- Sinus problems
ENTs treat all kinds of sinus problems, including chronic rhinosinusitis, which is a sinus infection, and fungal sinusitis.
- Problems with the larynx or the voice box
Ear, nose and throat doctors repair damage to the larynx and detect and treat head, throat and mouth cancers.
- Nasal congestion
Nasal congestion can be caused by allergies, sinus infections, or structural problems within the nose such as a deviated septum. ENT specialists determine the cause of nasal congestion and provide treatment accordingly.
- Speech and swallowing disorders
ENT doctors work with speech-language specialists to diagnose and treat voice disorders, swallowing problems, and speech impediments caused by strokes or cancer.
- Sleep apnea and sleep disorders
Sleep apnea is caused by restricted airways, which causes breathing problems and can be dangerous. ENT doctors perform sleep studies to determine the best course of treatment for sleep apnea.
ENT doctors can perform surgeries to treat conditions caused by deformities at birth, trauma, or other problems with the ears, nose and throat. Some surgeries that ENT doctors perform are:
- Tonsillectomies, which is removing the tonsils.
- Myringotomies, which is the insertion of tubes in the ear to alleviate chronic ear infections.
- Plastic surgery for both cosmetic and medical purposes. Plastic surgery includes rhinoplasty (nose job), blepharoplasty (treatment to correct drooping eyelids) or corrective reconstructive surgery following skin cancer removal. Surgeries can cure breathing problems by widening nasal passages or repairing a deviated septum.
- Sinus surgery, is a balloon sinuplasty to open narrow or blocked sinus passages.
- Removing nasal polyps, which are noncancerous growths on the lining of the nasal passages or sinuses.
- Removing tumors on the head, neck, and thyroid gland.
As problems with the ears, nose and throat can affect your daily life, ENT specialists are an essential part of your family’s health care team.