Otolaryngologist  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotThe public calls otolaryngologists ear, nose and throat doctors. But that term is too general. They diagnose and treat many of the same disorders general physicians do.

Those include inner-ear infections, allergies, hay fever, migraines and tonsillitis. But otolaryngologists are far more specialized than general physicians.

They are highly trained surgeons who treat a wide range of disorders. They use a combination of medication, radiotherapy and, of course, surgery.

dotHearing loss, dizziness (vertigo), disorders of smell or taste, thyroid disorders, and cancers of the neck and mouth are just some of the conditions otolaryngologists treat.

They also perform plastic surgery of the face, head and neck. And if you want somebody to stop snoring, just take that person to an otolaryngologist. They'll know what to do.

dotAn aging population and rising demand for special medical care will create a substantial number of jobs for specialists such as otolaryngologists, says a report from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Cultural trends will also benefit otolaryngology. "There is increasing demand for plastic surgery," says George Roman. He is director of practice management with the American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery.

dotWorking hours for otolaryngologists vary. They have to be on call if they work in a hospital, and they may have to perform emergency surgery. "But if you are on call, you don't have to be in the operating room all night long," says Dr. Julian Nedzelski.

Otolaryngologists have great flexibility if they run their own practice. "It's one of the few surgical professions where you can balance a family and workload," says Johnna MacCormick. She is an assistant professor of otolaryngology.

"Yet it is interesting, and you can make it what you want."

dotYou must have superb hand-eye coordination and eyesight if you want to go into otolaryngology. This is true for any surgical profession, but even more so for otolaryngologists because they operate on some of the most delicate parts of the human anatomy. Many procedures require powerful microscopes.

Endurance and stamina are other key physical requirements. Otolaryngology is also open to people with some physical disabilities. "Can you do this job wheelchair-bound? Yes!" says MacCormick. You can also be an otolaryngologist if your hearing is impaired.

dotOtolaryngologists must have superb communication skills. More importantly, they must be able to relate to different groups of people, from children to the elderly.

At a Glance

Diagnose and treat a wide range of disorders affecting the ear, nose and throat

  • Do everything from treating hay fever to performing plastic surgery
  • Working hours vary
  • You'll need to finish med school and complete about eight more years of training