Of all the medical disciplines, the “ENT” specialist is probably one of the less glamorous healthcare providers.
GPs, dentists and holistic healthcare providers easily crack the top 5, but the “ENT”? Not so much. Not many of us know what an ENT does – that is until we need to see one ourselves.
SO, WHAT IS AN “ENT” AND WHAT DO THEY DO?
The ENT in ENT stands for ear, nose and throat specialist and as the name suggests, these are specifically trained medical professionals that work with these very specialised parts of our bodies. They’re also known as otolaryngologists and in addition to working with ears, noses and throats, they’ll also be your source of treatment for issues that relate to your head and neck.
Typically, you would visit your primary care doctor who would then provide you with a referral to an ENT.
WHAT ISSUES WOULD AN “ENT” TREAT?
This is where the important “bits” come in. Knowing what’s happening in your body and how to source the best possible treatment for those issues goes some way in helping your primary care provider determine what is the best course of treatment and who is best placed to deliver that treatment.
So here are a few reasons why you would typically be referred to an ENT for treatment.
Conditions of the ear including ear infections, issues with balance or a hearing disorder or tinnitus.
Conditions of the nose, nasal cavities and sinuses. If you experience regular or frequent nosebleeds you may want to know when it’s best to see an ENT for nosebleed treatment. Nosebleeds are not usually all that serious, but if you’re experiencing heavy nosebleeds or a high frequency of nosebleeds then this may be indicative of more serious underlying conditions. These could include things like high blood pressure (hypertension) or a blood clotting condition.
Conditions of the throat may include problems you’re experiencing eating, singing or swallowing. If you suffer regularly from tonsillitis (that is the infection of the two oval-shaped glands on each side of the back of your throat), then you will certainly be visiting your ENT.
Related conditions of the head and neck. ENTs are specifically trained in the management of diseases, tumours and trauma. They can also work with deformities of the head, neck and face and in addition to all of that, provide reconstructive surgery in all of these areas.
DO ALL ENTs PROVIDE THE SAME LEVEL OF SPECIALISATION?
In short – no. Some ENTs have chosen to build their practice and career focusing on specific parts of treatment and care, while others would have gone on to do an extra year or two’s training to further their understanding and treatment of issues relating to the field of otolaryngology. (You may want to practice that word before trying to use it).
These specialists can offer further advice when it comes to pediatric otolaryngology (issues that children experience in these areas), Otology/neurotology/audiology (ears, balance as well as tinnitus), plastic and reconstructive surgery of the face, head and neck surgery, allergies, rhinology (the study of the nose and sinuses) and laryngology (specialising in the nose as well as sinus areas).
As with all service providers, not all providers are created equal so it’s a good idea to trust the referral from your GP, yes – but also, conduct some independent research and check referrals from friends or colleagues besides.
ALLERGIES, EVERYONE’S FAVOURITE SUMMERTIME FRIEND
There seems to be an increasing amount of allergies that insist on plaguing the world. We’re never more than a stone’s throw away from someone who has some new variant of intolerance to boiled eels or the like, but if you’re one of the unfortunates who suffer from chronic and persistent allergies, you’ll know that it’s no laughing matter.
When all traditional or drug-based treatments have failed, or in severe cases of an allergic reaction, your trusted ENT can be a potential source of relief here too.
If you suffer from conditions like Chronic Sinusitis, Rhinitis, Hay Fever or Sore Throat then you’ll know just how debilitating these conditions can be.
Contrary to popular belief you don’t necessarily need to be born with any of these conditions as they can develop well into adulthood and sometimes even as a result of certain types of medications.
Your ENT may prescribe all sorts of treatments and in some cases, minor surgeries were necessary to get you back on top and fighting fit.
EAR CARE AND GENERAL AUDITORY HEALTH
You can call on your ENT to provide a wide range of auditory healthcare solutions. These can be treating swimmer’s ear or tinnitus (the condition of near-constant “ringing in the ears” that really creates a challenge for sufferers and can heavily impact their lifestyle and mental health).
Some ENTs can also conduct audio assessments and evaluations, and if you are one of the lucky ones who suffer from excess ear wax, then your ENT can conduct an “ear irrigation” to provide instant relief.
If you or your partner are affected by heavy nighttime snoring, you will know just how badly this can impact your overall quality of life. There are very serious issues that can result from a lack of proper sleep and one of the major contributing factors to this is snoring.
…and there you have it. Far from just being the Doctors that poke around your actual eyes, ears and noses, your ENT can provide you with a long list of potential solutions to your ongoing healthcare management in these areas. It is important to know that relief is usually a visit to your GP away and while some conditions might seem embarrassing or awkward, remember that the old clichè of “we truly have seen it all” is quite correct when it comes to your Doctors.
Don’t suffer in silence when there is quite possibly a solution to a wide range of emergent or chronic conditions and most conditions treated by an ENT are covered by health insurance or Medicaid so your provider is a really good place to start the hunt for a top-quality ENT.
*Featured image by CDC