How to Find the Right Ear, Nose, and Throat Doctor

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Also known as: ENT, otorhinolaryngologist

An otolaryngologist is a doctor that has received specific training related to disorders of the ears, nose, throat, as well as the head and neck.Commonly referred to as an ENT (standing for ears, nose & throat), otolaryngologists represent the oldest specialty of physicians; having it's first meeting held in 1896. This group initially also included opthalmology (eye specialist), however due to the size of the organization, it was separated in 1962.

Otolaryngologists now belong to an organization known as the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. With the 12,000 doctors that are part of this organization, how can you identify the one that will be the best for you? Let's explore this field and identify things that can help you determine the right ENT for you.

What Do ENT Doctors Treat?

The field of otolaryngology is quite extensive, but here is a list of the common types of disorders that an ENT doctor will treat.

  1. Allergies
  2. Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery involves any surgery to repair structural abnormalities or cosmetic changes to the face, neck, or ears
  3. Head and Neck includes any tumors (both cancerous and benign tumors) located in the head and neck
  4. Laryngology is the specialty related to disorders of the throat
  5. Otology & Neurotology includes any disorders related to the ears or nerves associated with hearing and balance
  1. Pediatric Otolaryngology is a specialized field related to childhood disorders related to the ears, nose, throat, head, and neck
  2. Rhinology is related to disorders of the nose and sinus cavities

Starting Point

If you have health insurance, call your insurance company first. Some insurance companies will cover only services provided by specific physicians that are part of their network.

Also, your insurance company should have a large database of doctors in your area. To call your company, look for the number on the back of your insurance card. It may be listed under member services. Some insurance companies require what is known as a prior-authorization for services. If this is the case with your insurance, your primary care physician will need to coordinate with your insurance company to show the need for the specialized services.

Use Your Resources

Once you have a list of covered ENTs in your area, it can often be helpful to ask If you have one, ask your family physician (also called a general practitioner). If there is a good otolaryngologist in your area, he will have a reputation among the medical community. You can also ask around. Chances are good that someone you know already has an ear, nose and throat doctor. This is helpful because they will likely give you an honest opinion of their doctor from a patient's perspective.

Questions To Ask The Doctors Office

Because there are 7 subspecialties that are a part of the field of otolaryngology, many doctors will focus on one specialty. For instance there are ENTs who solely work on disorders of the ear (rhinology) and stay so busy placing ear tubes performing other ear surgeries that they would no longer be as competent in removing a thyroid.

If you were unable to determine whether or not your insurance company covers the physician, you should ask when you call. However the regulations around different insurance companies and plans can be difficult for a doctor's office receptionist to know everything about your insurance. Therefore, it is always best to check with your insurance company.


American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. (2015). About Us.

American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. (2015). What Is an Otolaryngologist? Accessed on 2/27/2016 from

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