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What is Othorhinolaryncology (ENT)?

Specialists in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology (ear, nose and throat or ENT) at Mayo Clinic in Arizona evaluate and treat patients with problems of the ear, nose, sinus, and head and neck region. A multispecialty team of Mayo ENT doctors and physician assistants work together to develop a customized treatment plan for each patient after a thorough evaluation using the latest diagnostic technology.

The Department of Otorhinolaryngology is divided into experienced experts in the following subspecialities:

  • Otology/Neurotology (ear problems)
  • Audiology
  • Laryngology/Voice disorders
  • Head and Neck Cancer
  • Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology
  • Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
  • Rhinology (nose and sinus problems)
  • General Otorhinolaryngology
  • Medical Otorhinolaryngology

How are Ear,Nose and Throat Specialists Trained?

Otolaryngologists are ready to start practicing after completing up to 15 years of college and post-graduate training. To qualify for certification by the American Board of Otolaryngology, an applicant must first complete college (four years), medical school (four years), and at least five years of specialty training. Next, the physician must pass the American Board of Otolaryngology examination. In addition, some otolaryngologists pursue a one- or two- year fellowship for more extensive training in one of eight subspecialty areas.

These subspecialty areas are allergy, facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, head and neck, laryngology (throat), otology/neurotology (ears, balance, and tinnitus), pediatric otolaryngology (children), rhinology (nose), and sleep disorders. Some otolaryngologists limit their practices to one of these eight areas.

What do Otolaryngologists Treat?

Otolaryngologists diagnose and manage diseases of the ears, nose, sinuses, larynx (voice box), mouth, and throat, as well as structures of the neck and face.

  • The ears: Hearing loss affects one in ten North Americans. The unique domain of otolaryngologists is the treatment of ear disorders. They are trained in both the medical and surgical treatment of hearing loss, ear infections, balance disorders, ear noise (tinnitus), and some cranial nerve disorders. Otolaryngologists also manage congenital (birth) disorders of the outer and inner ear.

  • The nose: About 35 million people develop chronic sinusitis each year, making it one of the most common health complaints in America. Care of the nasal cavity and sinuses is one of the primary skills of otolaryngologists. Problems in the nasal area include allergies, smell disorders, polyps, and nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum.

  • The throat: Communicating (speech and singing) and eating a meal all involve this vital area. Specific to otolaryngologists is expertise in managing diseases of the throat, larynx (voice box), and the upper aero-digestive tract or esophagus, including voice and swallowing disorders.

  • The head and neck: This area of the body includes the important functions of sight, smell, hearing, and the appearance of the face. In the head and neck area, otolaryngologists are trained to treat infections, benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous) tumors, facial trauma, and deformities of the face. They perform both cosmetic plastic and reconstructive surgery.

Treatment

Although ear tube surgery is a fairly common procedure, surgery is not the first choice of treatment for otitis media. Antibiotics are often used to treat bacterial ear infections, but many ear infections are viral and cannot be treated with antibiotics. These infections need to get better on their own, and only time can help them heal.

But if your child has frequent ear infections that don't clear up easily or a hearing loss or speech delay, the doctor may suggest surgery to drain fluid from the middle ear and insert a ventilation tube.

Because most kids have had infections in both ears, surgery is often done in both; this is called a bilateral myringotomy, or BMT. A tiny tube, called a pressure equalization (PE) or tympanostomy tube, is inserted into the eardrum to ventilate and equalize pressure in the middle ear. This will help to prevent future infections and the build-up of fluid, and will help normalize hearing.

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