What is Otorhinolaryngology?

Otorhinolaryngology or otolaryngology is a specialized branch of medical practice dealing with conditions that affect the ears, nose, throat, sinuses, head, neck and face. Doctors in this field may be called ear-nose-throat doctors and this may be abbreviated as ENT. Generally, the term otolaryngology is used with greater frequency than the term, otorhinolaryngology, though the latter is slightly more accurate because rhino refers to studying and treating disorders of the nose and sinuses.

The average specialist in otorhinolaryngology sees patients with disorders of the ears, nose, or throat and may follow patients with problems in these areas or offer surgical solutions to present issues. Many people see an ENT for procedures like tonsil and adenoid removal, draining the sinuses, or inserting ear tubes.

It is often the case that people view the ENT as most frequently performing surgeries like tonsillectomies, but this is a vast underestimation of the work these doctors perform. Even if a specialist in otorhinolaryngology doesn’t pursue a subspecialty, this doctor may still provide a vast array of services. These could include removing tumors from the sinuses or addressing disorders of the mouth and throat.

There are presently a large number of subspecialty choices for the physician interested in otorhinolaryngology. People can train to work only with children and become pediatric otolaryngologists. They could specialize in disorders in the nose and be rhinologists, or disorders of the throat and be laryngologists.


Some ENTs are interested most in reconstruction of the face and specialize in plastics, while others find that they are most comfortable treating conditions that affect the head and neck, and become head and neck specialists. Another option is to study the treatment of allergies from the otorhinolaryngology perspective. Alternately, an otolaryngologist might be most interested in disorders affecting the ears and related issues like hearing and balance.

The larger specialization of otorhinolaryngology is often surgical in nature, and it’s not for every physician. People entering this field need deft coordination, steady hands and precision. The length of time it takes to become a board-certified ENT, even without subspecialty, is extensive.

After medical school, the person wishing to become board-certified in otorhinolaryngology completes at least five additional years of study. Any form of subspecialty lengthens the time it will take to complete a program. Many ENTs spend at least six to seven years training after medical school before they begin private practice.

After meeting all requirements and passing exams for board certification, the ENT can work in a variety of venues. Many of them maintain a private practice with surgical privileges at nearby hospitals. Other doctors may become faculty at hospitals, where they perform surgeries, see patients, and potentially train new residents in this field.


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