None of us are foreign to ENT (ear, nose and throat) issues. After all, who hasn’t fallen sick with a cold, a sore throat or earache from time to time? These are all ENT issues that don’t require a specialist’s expertise to correct; we can simply pop by to the nearest general practitioner (GP) for a consultation and for some medication for treatment and relief of those symptoms.
However, there are many ENT issues that are beyond the scope of a GP’s expertise. When the issue is more chronic and persistent (for example, obstructive sleep apnea), simple oral medication is simply not going to cut it as a treatment. Also, when surgery is required to correct the condition (for example, if you have a deviated nasal septum), going to a proper ENT surgeon for assessment, diagnosis and treatment is the best course of medical action.
I find that there are many misconceptions and a certain degree of misinformation when it comes to an ENT specialist’s actual role and abilities. In this article, I’ll go through what an ENT specialist really is and help explain to readers when their condition is serious enough to require a visit to a proper ENT.
First, what is an ENT specialist? How are they different from normal doctors?
An ENT specialist (or Otolaryngologist) is someone that practices otolaryngology, the medical study of the regions of the head and neck. For most medical schools, it takes around 5 years of study, practice and assessment for a person to become a doctor. After a year-long internship at a public hospital, you will eventually become a full fledged medical officer.
In order to become an ENT specialist, you will need to study and practice for another 5 years before you can become one! Yes, 5 years! Over those 5 years, the prospective ENT specialist will undergo surgical residency in a variety of hospitals, going through various forms of in-field training and assessments to hone his/her craft. After that, they will need to undergo an “exit” exam which will qualify them as a full fledged ENT.
Wow! So, what types of treatment can an ENT specialist in Singapore really perform?
ENT specialists can address a wide array of ear, nose and throat related conditions, including but not limited to:
- Allergic Rhinitis
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Deviated Nasal Septum
- Ear Wax
- Paediatric ENT problems
ENT specialists and surgeons can also perform specific ENT related treatments such as corrective rhinoplasty and other surgeries for the head and neck areas, such as tracheotomies and cochlear implants. These are not limited to simply medical conditions, but cosmetic ones as well.
Conditions related to glands and lymph nodes around the neck can also be addressed by ENT specialists.
Are all ENT specialists the same?
In general, ENT specialists can perform a wide array of treatments and surgeries for many basic ENT conditions.
However, it is important to note that ENT specialists might also have an otolaryngologic speciality. This means that they may be more suited to treat conditions that are more specific for a certain aspect of otolaryngology.
Types of specialized ENT subspecialties include:
- Allergy related
- Otology (the inner ear & ear drum, tinnitus and balance related issues)
- Paediatric otolaryngology (for children suffering from ENT related issues)
- Rhinology (specific to the nose and sinus)
- Cosmetic facial plastic surgery
- Head and neck (specifically to deal with issues arising from tumours in these areas)
- Sleep related (Sleep apnea and snoring)
What can I expect for my first ENT specialist visit?
It is always a daunting and often scary prospect to visit a specialist for treatment of your medical issues. Many are worried that the diagnostic tests will be painful or unpleasant. Many patients are also worried about the downtime after surgery and also the potential for any serious side effects.
I would like to assure you that your experience visiting an ENT specialist will not be so unpleasant. First, the specialist will investigate what symptoms you are presenting with. They will ask you questions about their duration, severity and also check to see if you have any associated medical conditions and medications you are currently taking.
Depending on the symptoms that you are currently experiencing, the types of diagnostic tests required will differ greatly. Your ENT specialist will generally examine the areas of your ears, nose and throats but separate tests might be required. In general, the type of tests used include fiberoptic equipment as well as the use of microscopes in order to determine the nature of your condition.