Otorhinolaryngology. Hard to spell indeed but you probably know what this is about. Otorhinolaryngology (the study of ENT: Ears, Nose and Throat) is one of the most in-demand medical specializations in the world. ENT medical treatment is particularly important in children, as common pediatric ENT problems such as hearing difficulties can greatly impact on a child’s ability to learn in school. We asked ENT Doctor David Ho 何志謙醫生 to explain Otorhinolaryngology to us in more detail.
What is Otorhinolaryngology? What are the specific areas that an ENT specialist will cover?
Otorhinolaryngology is the study of the Ears, Nose and Throat (ENT). We cover both adults and children with ear problems (hearing, ear infection, balance, vertigo), nose problems (sinusitis, nose allergy, smell problem, blocked nose), mouth problems (oral pain, bad breathe, snoring, sleep apnea, tonsillitis, sore throat), and throat problems (swallowing difficulty, voice issues, lumps in the neck); as well as head and neck cancers.
How are ENT specialists trained?
ENT Specialists are specialist doctors. We have to study Medicine at University to become a doctor first. Then, we must take up internship training at a hospital. After that, there are 2-3 years of general surgical stream training at the hospital. Then there is usually 4-5 years of ENT Specialist training at hospitals to learn about ENT consultations and surgery. There is a fellowship exam at the end of the Specialist training to make sure you have adequate ENT knowledge, clinical and surgical skills to be a safe and good ENT specialist.
When should I consult an ENT specialist?
Typically when you have ear, nose or throat problems that a general practitioner cannot help with. It can also be a pressing issue that has been lingering on for a few weeks, or a head and neck problem that may require professional consultation and/or surgery.
What are the common instruments used by ENTs?
ENT Specialists use a lot of equipment to diagnose an issue and to provide treatment. For instance, a microscope to look into ear canals and eardrums. There are also telescopes (both flexible and rigid endoscopes) to look into the ear canals, nose, oral cavity and the throat (vocal cords). We can use many different instruments to clean ear canal wax impaction, infection with pus, and to remove other foreign bodies.
Which medical problems will an ENT specialist encounter most often?
In adults, I typically see ear infections, ear canal eczema, wax impaction, ear pressure problems (with flights and diving), impaired hearing, tonsillitis, nasal obstruction, sinusitis, nasal allergy, throat infection, hoarse voice (or loss thereof). I also treat more severe problems such as head and neck cancers.
What are the most common ENT problems found in children?
The most common problems for children are: ear infections (Otitis media and externa), nasal obstruction, nasal allergy, snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, tongue tie, tonsillitis, enlarged adenoids, neck lumps, voice problems, vocal cord nodules, speech delay, hearing problems, as well as foreign bodies that are stuck in the ears, nose and/or throat.