What is an Otorhinolaryngologist?

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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2019
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An otorhinolaryngologist is a fully certified surgeon who specializes in the treatment of ear, nose, throat, head and neck diseases and issues. There are a wide range of disorders and illnesses that affect this part of the body. Patients typically require a letter of referral from their family doctor to see an otorhinolaryngologist. This type of surgeon has surgical privileges in at least two local hospitals.

Most otorhinolaryngologists typically locate their medical practice in a large, well-developed urban center. Many doctors who specialize in this field also take on teaching assignments at the local medical school. This type of appointment provides them with an academic ranking and is very helpful when publishing books, articles, or completing research in this field.

There are three areas of practice focus for an otorhinolaryngologist: reconstructive or plastic surgery, diagnosis and treatment of congenital defects, and disease treatment. In order to become an otorhinolaryngologist, candidates must obtain a medical degree. A four-year sub-specialty program, complete with residency, is required. Upon successful completion, this position is quite well-compensated and is a very popular option with the top surgeons.


Reconstructive or plastic surgery of the face and neck are quite complex, and require surgeons with lots of experience and excellent fine motor skills. Restorative surgery is often required for patients who have been in a major car accident, fire, or other type of trauma. It is sometimes recommended for patients who are recovering from cancer of the jaw or had a tumor removed from their face.

Congenital defects are ones that are inherited, or appear at birth. This includes clef palate, nose development issues, or droopy eye. All of these conditions can be corrected with surgery. Depending on the age of the patient and the level of complexity, these defects can be corrected in one to three surgeries.

The diagnosis and treatment of diseases that affect breathing is very complex, but are part of the skills of an otorhinolaryngologist. Sleep apnea, where the patient stops breathing temporarily while sleeping, can be corrected with minor surgery. Other related conditions include hearing issues, eardrum perforation, and cancer treatment.

People who report the greatest satisfaction with this career are very detail-oriented, gain personal satisfaction from helping others, and enjoy leading a team. This type of doctor typically keeps standard business hours and work week. Though they may be called to assist in an emergency situation, this is quite rare.


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