8 Tips for Choosing an ENT (Otolaryngologist)

  • Otolaryngologycal Exam
    A Personal Decision
    If you require the care of an otolaryngologist (pronounced oh/toe/lair/in/goll/oh/jist), you may be facing a problem with your ear, nose or throat. Otherwise known as an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor, an otolaryngologist is there to guide you through many decisions about preventing or treating conditions that affect your ears, nose, throat, and related structures in your head and neck. How do you find the best ENT who is right for you? Here are some important factors to keep in mind.

  • Man on phone looking at laptop
    1. Get Referrals
    Start with a referral list from your primary care doctor. You can also ask family, friends and other healthcare providers for recommendations. Take the time to research the doctors’ credentials and experience on Healthgrades.com. As you narrow down your list, call each ENT’s office and ask for a consult appointment to meet and interview the doctor.

  • Older couple using laptop
    2. Research the ENT’s Credentials
    Board certification is one of the most important factors to consider when you are choosing an ENT. It tells you that the doctor has the necessary training, skills and experience to provide healthcare in otolaryngology. Also confirm that the ENT has no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions. You can find the ENT’s medical school, training hospital, certifications, and malpractice and disciplinary history on Healthgrades.com and state websites.

  • Male surgeon leaning on wall with colleagues in background
    3. Consider the ENT’s Experience
    Experience matters when it comes to preventing or treating a health condition. The more experience an ENT has with a condition or procedure, the better your results are likely to be. Ask if your surgeon has completed subspecialty fellowship training related to your diagnosis. Ask how many patients with your specific condition ENT has treated. If you know you need a specific procedure, ask how many of the procedures the doctor has performed and find out about complication rates—complications the doctor has encountered as well as your own risk of complications.

  • Woman getting ultrasound
    4. Consider Gender
    It’s important to feel comfortable with your ENT’s gender because you will need to openly discuss personal information. When it comes to certain types of ear, nose and throat care, your own gender is also an important consideration. ENTs are becoming more skilled in caring for women and men differently. Ask the ENT about his or her recent training and experience specifically related to your condition and your gender.

  • African American male doctor typing on laptop at desk in office
    5.Ask About Telehealth Capabilities
    Healthcare providers can diagnose and treat some patients using telecommunications technology, including two-way video, smartphones, and email; it's called telehealth. Ask if the doctor offers telehealth capabilities. Telehealth doesn’t replace hands-on in-person office visits, but for many patients, it means fewer trips to the doctor’s office. Some conditions can be managed by sending symptoms and vital signs you collect at home and having a “virtual visit” with your provider. Telehealth can also be used for routine follow-ups and minor complaints too, making it a convenient option. Check to make sure your health insurance will pay for telehealth services.

  • Doctor explaining to patient
    6. Evaluate Communication Style
    Choose an ENT with whom you are comfortable talking and who supports your information needs. When you first meet the ENT, ask a question and notice how he or she responds. Does he or she welcome your questions and answer them in ways that you can understand? Did you feel rushed or engaged? Find an ENT who shows an interest in getting to know you, who will consider your treatment preferences, and who will respect your decision-making process.

  • Businessman checking off survey
    7. Read Patient Reviews
    Reading what other people have to say about a doctor can provide insight into how a doctor practices medicine, as well as how his or her medical practice is operated. Patient reviews typically reflect people's experience with scheduling appointments, wait times, office environment, and office staff friendliness. You can learn about how well patients trust the doctor, how much time he or she spends with their patients, and how well he or she answers questions.

  • Health insurance policy and calculator
    8. Know What Your Insurance Covers
    Your insurance coverage is a practical matter. To receive the most insurance benefits and pay the least out-of-pocket for your care, you may need to choose an otolaryngologist who participates in your plan. You should still consider credentials, experience, outcomes, and hospital quality as you select an otolaryngologist from your plan.

8 Tips for Choosing an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Doctor

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 
  1. Lenarz M, et al. Effect of gender on the hearing performance of adult cochlear implant patients. Laryngoscope. 2012;122(5):1126-9. 
  2. Pearson JD, et al.  Gender differences in a longitudinal study of age-associated hearing loss. J Acoust Soc Am. 1995;97(2):1196-205.
  3. Graham MS, Palmer AD. Gender Difference Considerations for Individuals With Laryngectomies. Contemp Issues Commun Sci Disord. 2002;29:59-67. 
  4. Lee MT, Gibson S, Hilari K. Gender differences in health-related quality of life following total laryngectomy. Int J Lang Commun Disord. 2010;45(3):287-94. 
  5. American Board of Otolaryngology. American Board of Medical Specialties. http://www.abms.org/member-boards/contact-an-abms-member-board/american-board-of-otolaryngology/
  6. What Is an Otolaryngologist? American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/otolaryngologist.cfm
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