Otolaryngologist vs. ENT Doctor: Differences

Medically Reviewed on 10/5/2022
Otolaryngologist vs ENT Doctor
Otolaryngologists undergo rigorous schooling to safely operate and treat conditions related to the head, ears, nose, and throat.

There is no distinction between an:

  • ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist,
  • otolaryngologist,
  • otorhinolaryngologist, or
  • ENT physician or surgeon.

All these terms refer to the same medical professional. A medical specialty related to the ears, nose, and throat is called otolaryngology. Because experts are trained in both medicine and surgery, it is sometimes called otolaryngology head and neck surgery.

An ENT surgeon is another term for an otolaryngologist. There is no difference.

  • This field of medicine has its roots in the 19th century when medical professionals realized that the head and neck were home to several interrelated systems.
  • To diagnose and treat head and neck conditions, doctors created a variety of methods and equipment that eventually gave rise to a medical specialty.

The American Academy of Otolaryngology claims that it is the country's first medical specialty. Otolaryngologists are trained to undertake a wide range of surgeries on the delicate and complicated tissues of the head and neck.

Do otolaryngologists operate?

Otolaryngologists do practice surgery. These highly qualified doctors undergo five years of residency training after graduating from medical school to become qualified to operate on the head, ears, nose, and throat.

Otolaryngologists frequently perform the following procedures:

  • Tonsillectomy: Removal of the tonsils.
  • Myringotomy: Surgical procedure of the eardrum or tympanic membrane.
  • Septoplasty: Surgical repair of a deviated nasal septum.
  • Thyroidectomy: Removal of the thyroid gland in the neck.
  • Rhinoplasty: Surgical correction of the nose's appearance.
  • Laryngoscopy with biopsy: Surgical removal and examination of throat abnormalities.

What conditions does an otolaryngologist or ENT treat?

General otolaryngologists treat a wide range of problems and do not restrict their practices to just one area of the head and neck. However, some ear, nose, and throat (ENT) experts choose to specialize further in one of the following fields:

  • Ear (otology or neurotology): The ability to function in daily life depends on the ability to hear and balance. The ailments that ENT experts address include ear infections, hearing loss, vertigo, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), pain in the ear, face, or neck, etc.
  • Nose: The nose warms and humidifies the air breathed in besides helping to keep out contaminants, allergens, and other substances that could be harmful. In addition to allergies, ENT experts treat deviated septum, rhinitis, sinusitis, sinus headaches, migraines, nasal blockage, skull-base tumors, including those inside the cranial cavity, and other conditions.
  • Throat: ENT doctors address sore throats, hoarseness, infections, throat tumors, and problems with the vocal cords and upper airways.
  • Head or neck and thyroid: Some of the most important organs are in the head and neck region, which can be particularly vulnerable to tumors and cancer. ENT experts treat benign neck masses, thyroid diseases (benign and malignant tumors), Grave's disease, enlarging thyroid glands, parathyroid disease, head and neck cancers, etc.
  • Sleep: Snoring, sleep apnea, nasal and airway obstruction, and other issues are treated by ENT doctors.
  • Facial plastic and reconstructive surgery: Facial trauma and the ensuing change in appearance brought on by an incident, injury, birth defect, or side effect of a medical condition can be upsetting. Cleft palates, drooping eyelids, hair loss, ear abnormalities, facial paralysis, trauma reconstruction, head and neck cancer reconstruction, and facial cosmetic surgery are conditions that facial plastic surgeons who specialize in ENT surgery tackle.
  • Pediatrics: ENT doctors address airway issues, asthma, allergies, developmental delays, ear infections, tonsil and adenoid infections, and congenital deformities of the head and neck.


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Medically Reviewed on 10/5/2022
Image Source: iStock image

What is Otolaryngology? https://www.entcolumbia.org/about-us/what-otolaryngology

What Is an Otolaryngologist? https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-otolaryngologist

Otolaryngologist, Ear Nose and Throat Doctor, Otorhinolaryngologist, and ENTs - Dissecting the Differences. https://www.umhs-sk.org/blog/otolaryngologists-ents-rhinologists-and-otologists

ENT vs Otolaryngologist. https://www.sfenta.org/blog/ent-vs-otolaryngologist/

Ear, nose, & throat (ENT) doctor or primary care physician: when to see an ENT. https://healthcare.utah.edu/ent/ent-or-primary-care-doctor.php