Pediatric Otolaryngologist: Your Children's ENT Specialist
What is a pediatric otolaryngologist?
A pediatric otolaryngologist (pronounced “ōtō-lar-en-gäl-e-jest”), or ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor, specializes in the medical and surgical care of infants, children and adolescents with disorders that affect the ears, nose, throat, head and neck. Pediatric otolaryngologists diagnose and treat a variety of health conditions, including tonsillitis, laryngomalacia (a birth defect), ear infections, and sleep apnea.
A pediatric otolaryngologist typically:
Evaluates a patient's medical history and educates the child and the child’s family about disease prevention
Performs exams of the ear, nose, throat, head and neck
Performs hearing and speech screenings
Orders and interprets laboratory and imaging tests and prescribes medications
Diagnoses and treats acute and chronic diseases and conditions that affect the ears, nose, throat, head and neck including ear and throat infections, voice box problems, thyroid disease, and swallowing problems
A pediatric otolaryngologist may also be known as a pediatric ear, nose, and throat doctor; children’s ENT; ENT for kids; or pediatric ENT.
Who should see a pediatric otolaryngologist?
Many conditions affecting a child’s ears, nose, throat, head or neck, such as occasional tonsillitis or ear infections, can be diagnosed and treated by a pediatrician or family doctor. You child’s primary doctor may recommend that your child seeks care from a pediatric otolaryngologist for more complex or serious problems, such as frequent tonsillitis or ear infections that are difficult to treat. This also includes conditions that cause breathing and swallowing problems; hearing loss and speech difficulties; lumps or growths in the mouth or neck; and pain affecting the ear, nose or throat.
Pediatric otolaryngologists are trained in both medical management and surgery, and do not typically need to refer patients to other doctors when surgery is needed.
When should you see a pediatric otolaryngologist?
Consider seeking care from an experienced pediatric otolaryngologist if your child develops any of the following symptoms or conditions:
Allergy symptoms including itchy eyes, nose, and throat with nasal congestion or discharge
Facial paralysis or injury due to trauma
Hoarseness that continues to get worse and is accompanied by throat pain and swallowing problems
Lump or bump in the neck, mouth, throat, nose or ears
Snoring and poor sleep
Stuffy nose, difficulty breathing, facial pain, loss of smell, or frequent nosebleeds
What conditions and diseases does a pediatric otolaryngologist treat?
A pediatric otolaryngologist treats conditions and diseases including:
Ear conditions including ear infections, hearing loss, balance disorders, ruptured eardrum, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), cholesteatoma (abnormal skin growth in the ear), benign (noncancerous) growths, and congenital disorders and deformities of the outer and inner ear
Head and neck conditions including tumors of the parotid, thyroid and parathyroid glands; sleep apnea; head or neck masses; hemangiomas (benign blood vessel tumors) and vascular malformations; and facial irregularities, deformities or injuries
Speech and hearing problems including hypernasal speech, hearing loss, and vocal cord paralysis or lesions
Throat conditions including voice and swallowing problems, pediatric gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), and tonsil and adenoid infections
What tests does a pediatric otolaryngologist perform or order?
A pediatric otolaryngologist can order or perform a wide variety of diagnostic and screening tests, including:
Biopsies including removal of tissue from the thyroid or other areas of the head and neck
General health tests including physical exam of the ears, nose, throat, head and neck; blood tests; bacteria cultures including group A Streptococcus; and allergy patch skin tests
GERD tests including pH probe, barium swallow or upper GI series, technetium gastric emptying study, and endoscopy with biopsy
Hearing and speech evaluations including otoscopy, tympanography and audiography
Imaging tests including X-rays and computed tomography(CT) scans
Scope tests including endoscopy (of the esophagus), otoscopy (of the ear), bronchoscopy (of the airways and lungs), and laryngoscopy (of the back of the throat and voice box)
Sleep studies including polysomnogram (PSG)
What procedures and treatments does a pediatric otolaryngologist perform or order?
Pediatric otolaryngologists are trained in both medical and surgical treatments. Common procedures and treatments include:
Airway procedures including bronchoscopy and tracheotomy
Allergy treatments including medication and immunotherapy (allergy shots)
Cosmetic and reconstructive surgery including rhinoplasty (“nose job”), otoplasty (pinning the ears back), and repair of cleft lip and cleft palate (palatoplasty)
Ear surgery including cochlear implants, myringotomy (tiny incisions in the eardrum to relieve pressure), and tympanoplasty (reconstruction of the eardrum and middle ear)
Endocrine surgery including surgery of the thyroid gland and parathyroid glands
GERD treatments including medication, lifestyle changes, and surgery
Larynx (voice box) procedures including voice therapy, phonosurgery (surgery to correct voice or sound production), and laryngectomy (removal of the larynx)
Nasal treatments including medication, balloon sinuplasty, and septoplasty (straightening of the nasal septum)
Pediatric otolaryngologist training and certification
A doctor may practice pediatric otolaryngology without becoming board certified in the specialty. However, education, training, experience and certification are key elements in establishing a doctor’s level of competence. Board certification in otolaryngology verifies that a doctor has completed training in the specialty and has passed a competency examination.
A board-certified pediatric otolaryngologist has earned certification as an otolaryngologist by the American Board of Otolaryngology. A board-certified pediatric otolaryngologist has:
Graduated from medical school or a college of osteopathic medicine, earning an MD or DO degree
Completed five years of specialized residency training in diagnosing, treating and managing problems affecting the ears, nose, throat, upper respiratory and upper alimentary systems, and associated structures of the head and neck
Passed a certification exam that validates the doctor's specialized knowledge and skills in otolaryngology
Completed one year of specialized fellowship training in pediatric otolaryngology and successfully pass the subspecialty certification exam
To maintain board certification in otolaryngology, a doctor must participate in the American Board of Otolaryngology Maintenance of Certification program