- Officially called "otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeons," otolaryngologists provide both medical and surgical services. This dual expertise makes them different from many physicians because doctors tend to specialize in only medicine or surgery. Otolaryngologists diagnose, treat and help patients prevent diseases and medical disorders that interfere with the proper functioning of their ears, nose and throat. The health of your ears affects your balance and hearing; the health of your nose affects your facial appearance and your senses of smell and taste; and the health of your throat affects your ability to communicate effectively and eat correctly.
- Otolaryngology has seven specialties that determine the specific responsibilities of otolaryngologists. Allergy specialists treat sensitivities to substances such as dust, food and pollen. Facial plastic and reconstructive surgery specialists treat physical abnormalities through surgery. Head and neck specialists treat tumors located in the neck and head. Laryngology specialists treat throat disorders. Otology/neurotology specialists treat ear problems that influence balance and hearing. Pediatric otolaryngology specialists treat problems in children, such as birth defects and delayed development. Rhinology specialists treat nose and sinus problems.
Education and Training
- Individuals interested in becoming an otolaryngologist need to graduate from a four-year college before entering medical school for four years of medical education. Five years of residency training in otolaryngology follow, and this post-graduate program must begin with a minimum of nine months devoted to learning the basics of surgery. After finishing the residency program, otolaryngologists must pass an examination to obtain certification from the American Board of Otolaryngology. They can then pursue an optional fellowship lasting 12 to 24 months. Such fellowships provide training in one of eight areas of expertise: sleep disorders, in addition to the seven available otolaryngology specialties.
Salary and Other Considerations
- Otolaryngologists earned an average salary of $341,482 per year as of 2004, according to an analysis included in the September 2005 edition of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery publication titled AAO-HNS Bulletin. Half of the otolaryngologists surveyed that year earned less than $296,338 annually, while the other half earned more. In addition to earning a substantial salary and specializing in certain areas, otolaryngologists can treat diverse patients and work in various settings, explains the American College of Surgeons. Some academic institutions offer teaching careers, for instance, while other businesses have research positions. Otolaryngologists can combine such professional opportunities with an active medical and surgical practice as well.