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The Ear, Nose, And Throat Doctor

Apr 7, 2008
What would the holidays be like without the festive music, the fragrant smells, and the delicious treats that are baked but once a year? If you've ever had a cold, you know what it's like to lose your senses of hearing, smell, and taste, if only temporarily. Your ears, nose, and throat are essential to these very important senses, and they perform many other functions as well.

Otolaryngology is the study and treatment of the ear, nose, throat, and oral cavity. Specialists in this field are called Otolaryngologists, but they are commonly referred to as ENT (ear, nose, and throat) physicians. ENT physicians are trained to manage a wide variety of diseases and disorders of these organs.

For example, an ENT physician would treat problems with the ear, including balance and hearing; sinus diseases and disorders of the nose; head and neck cancers; snoring; sleep apnea; and voice problems of the throat; and also perform facial cosmetic surgery.

Your ears enable you to hear, which in turn allows you to communicate with those around you. Normal hearing levels allow you to hear a remarkable range of sounds and intensities. Hearing also helps protect you from environmental hazards. You can hear the sirens of emergency vehicles, the screaming of a smoke alarm, and the bark of an angry dog racing toward you. Hearing is an underestimated sense. Although many people fear blindness more than loss of hearing, nothing is so isolating as living in total silence.

Hearing problems are common. For example, 1 out of 1,000 children is born with severe to profound hearing loss. Between 5% and 10% of the population has a hearing impairment. Fortunately, many who are born deaf compensate and do remarkably well, especially with the aid of modern hearing aids, reconstructive surgery, and cochlear implants. Sophisticated hearing aids are also very effective for many people who have lose part or all of their hearing through accidents, disease, or aging.

In addition to hearing, specific structures in the ear help us keep our balance. Problems with these parts of the ear, such as from an infection or accident, can cause dizziness and nausea.

The nose governs our sense of smell and to a great extent our sense of taste. The nose also allows you to breath air into your lungs. The nose warms, filters, and humidifies the air you breathe.

The air and food passageways start out together in the troat. After air or food passes through the throat, or pharynx, the larynx delivers air to the trachea (windpipe) or food to the esophagus, which leads to the stomach. Salivary glands located in the mouth release saliva, which lubricates food and contains enzymes that begin digestion. The tongue, with its tiny tastebuds, allows you to taste the difference between a bagel and a doughnut, an orange and a lemon, coffee and hot chocolate. It also helps you shape words from the sounds created by the vibrating of the vocal cords located in the throat.

Otolaryngologists can start their practice after finishing up to 15 years of college and post-graduate education. To meet the requirements for certification by the American Board of Otolaryngology, a candidate must first finish college, medical school, and at least five years of specialty education. Next, the doctor must pass the American Board of Otolaryngology test. In addition to these requirements, some Otolaryngologists take up a fellowship for more in-depth training in a subspecialty area.

Most Otolaryngologists are trained in both medicine and surgery. If there is a medical issue that requires surgery, they do not need to refer their patient to another physician.
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