What is otolaryngology?

Otolaryngology is the oldest medical specialty in the U.S. It focuses on medical and surgical treatment for people who have disorders of the ear, nose, throat, and related areas.

  • Ear problems include:

    • Hearing problems

    • Ear infections

    • Balance disorders

    • Ringing or other sounds in the ear (tinnitus)

    • Some cranial nerve disorders, such as facial paralysis

  • Nose problems include:

    • Blocked nasal passages due to crooked cartilage, polyps, or swollen glands

    • Allergies

    • Problems with smell

    • How the nose looks

    • Sinus infections

    • Nose bleeds

  • Throat problems include:

    • Voice box (larynx) diseases (growths on vocal cords)

    • Tonsillitis or tonsil stones

    • Voice disorders (hoarseness)

    • Swallowing disorders

  • Problems of related head and neck structures include:

    • Nerves that control smell, taste, hearing, and the face

    • Infectious diseases

    • Noncancerous (benign) and cancerous (malignant) tumors

    • Facial injury or deformities

    • Thyroid and parathyroid diseases

    • Salivary gland disorders or growths

    • Cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery

    • Sleep disorders

Healthcare providers who specialize in this are called otolaryngologists. They are also called ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialists.

These healthcare providers may also further specialize in any of the following:

  • Children's ENT disorders

  • Hearing, balance, facial nerve, and skull base disorders

  • Allergies

  • Facial cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery

  • Head and neck cancers

  • Throat (voice, swallowing, and airway disorders)

  • Nose disorders

  • Sleep medicine

Online Medical Reviewer: Ronald Karlin MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Sumana Jothi MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2022
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