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Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery
Training Information
Specialty Description

What is an otolaryngologist?

An otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon provides medical and/ or surgical therapy for the prevention of diseases, allergies, neoplasms, deformities, disorders, and/or injuries of the ears, nose, sinuses, throat, respiratory, and upper alimentary systems, face, jaws, and the other head and neck systems. Head and neck oncology, facial, plastic, and reconstructive surgery and the treatment of disorders of hearing and voice are fundamental areas of expertise.

What does an otolaryngologist do?

Otolaryngology–head and neck surgery is a field involved in treating a wide variety of patients of all ages with diseases of the head and neck area such as thyroid and parathyroid disorders, salivary gland disorders, hearing and balance disorders, sinonasal disorders, voice and swallowing disorders, cancers of the head and neck, pediatric otolaryngologic issues and sleep disorders.

A major part of this specialty is the treatment of different benign and malignant tumors of the head and neck that can have impact on function. The role of the otolaryngologist goes well beyond the excision of such tumors to include reconstruction of the resultant defect and restoration of function using microvascular free flaps whenever necessary. Adding to the specialty’s uniqueness is that patients can be diagnosed and managed medically and/or surgically by the same provider, giving the otolaryngologist the advantage of being involved in the care of the patient early in the process and throughout the course of the disease.

Technical innovations have helped to broaden the breadth of the specialty. One, among many examples, is cochlear implant technology, which has changed the lives of many hearing-impaired individuals by improving their means of communication and broadening their career and professional choices. Advancements in endoscopy, robotic surgery and lasers have made minimally invasive surgery of the head and neck and even the skull base area more common.Most of the procedures involve work around or in close proximity to many important and vital structures—the major vessels of the head and neck, the facial nerve, the airway, organs of balance and hearing, and the cranial cavity.

How to become an otolaryngologist?

Specialty training required prior to certification: Five years

Otolaryngology residency training is five years and is highly competitive. The first year includes experience in general surgery and introduction/exposure to related and essential fields such as neurosurgery, anesthesiology, critical care medicine and emergency medicine. Plastics and reconstructive surgery are also included in the curriculum, as otolaryngologists’ skills are not limited to disease control but include improving appearances and minimizing facial abnormalities. The last four years of residency are devoted to otolaryngology–head and neck surgery training. A research rotation is an integral part of the otolaryngology residency.

How much do otolaryngologists make?

Otolaryngologists benefit from a flexible career that enables them to maintain a work-life balance. Otolaryngologists have the option to pursue academics, private practice or mixed careers, each with different demands and rewards.

Similar to other specialties, otolaryngologists’ incomes vary by region, years in practice, and type of practice. According to the Association of Otolaryngology Administrators (AOA) 2016 Benchmarking Survey, otolaryngologists annual mean compensation is $564,675.00.