What Is An Otolaryngologist?

hearing problems

In medicine there are many different types of doctors who specialize in treating different parts of the body. Orthopedic surgeons are concerned with the bones while oncologists specialize in treating cancer. For people who have conditions that affect the ears, nose, throat, and neck, they would likely need to see an otolaryngologist.

While primary care doctors can usually treat certain illnesses like ear and sinus infections, recurrent issues would likely mean that they need a trip to see an otolaryngologist. Here are more facts about this unique medical specialty, commonly known as an ear, nose, and throat doctor—or ENT. 

The Role of an Otolaryngologist

Because otolaryngologists are focused on conditions of the ears, nose, and throat, they identify and treat conditions that are located in that part of the body. This can be anything from recurrent infections to blockages that require surgery. While these ENTs are trained to identify disease, they are also surgeons. This makes them uniquely skilled at helping people with issues that affect their neck and head region of the body. 

What is an otolaryngologist? Think about small children who get ear tubes or have their tonsils and adenoids removed. Consider adults who have a deviated septum and need to breathe better out of their nose. These are just some examples of what these doctors can do. They are medical professionals like those at the ENT Care Centers in Louisville, KY with undergraduate, postgraduate, and specialized medical education who treat conditions of the ears, nose, and throat. 

Common Reasons People Visit an Otolaryngologist

Ear infections in children are one of the most common conditions treated by an ENT. But it’s not the only one. Otolaryngologists can assess why a person suddenly loses their hearing or what’s causing a lump on a person’s neck. These things can be as simple as a blocked lymph node or a condition that’s more concerning like cancer. They may even help people with sleep disorders if there is a physiological blockage. 

Otolaryngology vs. ENT, Audiologist & Laryngologist

Within the specialty of an otolaryngologist, there are other subspecialties. These include audiology, laryngology, and even rhinology. The terms otolaryngologist and ENT are synonymous with each other. They are the same. If you want to ask what an otolaryngologist is, ENT will often come up as part of the definition. 

An audiologist is focused on hearing. When a patient is losing their hearing, experiencing tinnitus, or other ear problems that affect how well they can hear, their journey often starts with an audiologist. This type of doctor will assess hearing and determine what steps can be taken to improve how well a person hears. 

Laryngologists are a subspecialty of otolaryngology and focus on throat conditions. These can include anything from chronic laryngitis to cancers in the throat.  


The simplest answer to the question of what is an otolaryngologist is that they are medical doctors who diagnose, treat, and perform surgeries for conditions that impact the ears, nose, and throat. While general practice physicians can treat minor occasional infections and issues that impact patients in these regions, ENTs have specialized knowledge that make them better suited to treat chronic and more serious issues that affect patients in these areas.