An otolaryngologist, or ENT, is a healthcare specialist who treats conditions affecting your ears, nose and throat. They can also perform head and neck surgeries, including surgeries on your ears, mouth, throat, nose, neck and face.
An otolaryngologist (pronounced “ot-o-lar-en-GA-le-jist”) is a healthcare provider that diagnoses and treats conditions affecting your head and neck. Otolaryngologists offer both nonsurgical and surgical treatments.
Otolaryngologists are specialists. First, they must complete their undergraduate education and apply for medical school. Following graduation from a licensed medical school, a doctor who wants to become an otolaryngologist must undergo five more years of residency training in their chosen field. Some otolaryngologists even choose to pursue further education in subspecialties like pediatric otolaryngology and reconstructive surgery.
Another name for an otolaryngologist is ENT, which stands for “ear, nose and throat.” Both terms mean the same thing. “ENT” is the more common term, probably because it’s easier to remember. But “otolaryngologist” is the medical term for this type of specialist.
Most otolaryngologists prefer the term “otolaryngologist” because it recognizes that they treat much more than conditions of the ear, nose and throat.
An otolaryngologist diagnoses and treats conditions affecting your head and neck. These conditions range from mild (such as a cough and runny nose) to serious (such as head and neck cancer).
Because an otolaryngologist treats such a wide range of conditions and diseases, they’re trained to perform both nonsurgical and surgical treatments.
There are many reasons why someone might need to see an otolaryngologist. Your primary care physician (PCP) may refer you to an otolaryngologist if you develop certain symptoms, including:
An ENT diagnoses and treats infections and diseases of your ears, nose and throat. But they also treat a wide range of other conditions affecting your head and neck region.
Otolaryngologists treat ear conditions, including:
Common nose conditions that otolaryngologists treat include:
Otolaryngologists also treat throat conditions, including:
Otolaryngologists commonly treat sleep-related conditions, including:
Otolaryngologists can surgically treat head and neck tumors (both cancerous and noncancerous). Examples include:
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Otolaryngology is one of the most common healthcare specialties. In the U.S., approximately 27 million people visit the otolaryngologist each year.
A board-certified otolaryngologist has received additional, voluntary training to hone their skills and demonstrate commitment to their profession. To become board certified, an otolaryngologist must undergo vigorous testing, including written, oral and clinical examinations.
For otolaryngologists in the U.S., the American Board of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery (ABOHNS) grants board certification.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
An otolaryngologist, or ENT, is a medical specialist who diagnoses and treats conditions affecting your head and neck. You might need to see an otolaryngologist if you have chronic issues with your ears, nose or throat. If you develop persistent symptoms, schedule an appointment with an otolaryngologist, or ask for a referral from your primary care provider.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/20/2023.
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