When to See an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist

When to See an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist

An ear, nose, and throat doctor is a doctor that specializes in the medical field of otolaryngology. This field focuses on issues that are affecting the ear, nose and throat such as nose bleeds, sore throats, balance disorders, ear infections and more. 

In most cases, you will be able to find an otolaryngologist, also known as an ENT at an allergy clinic, but most specialists have their own office. Oftentimes, if you see your general practitioner, or the doctor you go to see for check-ups, they will direct you to an ENT if they think you need to see one. 

Continue reading to learn when you should make an appointment with an ENT instead of your primary care provider.

What does an ENT do?

As the name suggests, ear, nose, and throat doctors will most commonly treat conditions of the ear, nose and throat. A few of these common conditions include allergies, ear infections, TMJ discomfort, and sleep apnea. While primary care doctors can help with these issues, they will likely refer you to an ear, nose, and throat doctor for care. 

  • Ear – Some conditions of the ear that an ENT can treat include tinnitus, balance disorders, swimmer’s ear, hearing impairment, or ear injuries. 
  • Nose – Issues such as deviated septums, chronic nose bleeds, breathing problems, and sinus conditions often require assistance from an otolaryngologist.  
  • Throat – ENTs regularly treat medical issues like asthma, tonsil infections, difficulty swallowing, voice problems.

ENT doctors that are more specialized may address more serious health issues such as head and neck cancers, thyroid problems, craniofacial surgery, neurotology, and pediatric airway conditions. 

When should I go to an ENT?

If you are experiencing medical issues in your ears, nose, or throat, you should consider visiting your ENT doctor for treatment. Here are some of the most important signs to look out for that tell suggest that it is time to make an appointment with your ENT. 

Chronic Sore Throat

Everyone experiences a scratchy throat or hoarseness, whether it’s from the common cold, bronchitis, or from cheering too hard for your favorite sports team. Generally, these issues will go away after a while and don’t require a visit to your ear, nose, and throat doctor. However, you should pay attention to your symptoms and how long they last. 

In some cases, hoarseness in your throat that lasts for over six weeks may be a symptom of a more serious medical condition. Some medical issues that may be at the source of your hoarseness include lesions in your vocal cords, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) or cancer of the larynx. If you experience hoarseness in your throat for six weeks or longer, you may want to seek out professional medical care from an ear, nose, and throat doctor. 

Chronic Sinus Infections

Sometimes it can be easy to mistake sinus infections for common colds, but it is important to be able to identify the difference because untreated sinusitis can become more advanced. If you are frequently developing sinusitis or if you have had sinusitis for a prolonged period of time, you should visit your ear, nose and throat doctor. Sinusitis can cause unpleasant symptoms such as:

  • Headaches
  • Yellow and green mucus drainage from the nose
  • Mucus dripping down the throat
  • Difficulty smelling
  • Fever
  • Dental pain
  • Tooth pain
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Bad breath

Hearing Loss

Hearing is one of your most important senses, but there are many ways that your hearing can get damaged over time. Some hearing loss is natural with aging, but sometimes hearing loss is caused by damage or illness. Exposure to loud noises can lead to hearing loss over time, but the loss is usually gradual. In some cases, temporary hearing loss may occur. 

An ENT can help you determine the cause of hearing loss, including infections, circulatory inner ear problems, and other neurological problems. If you have been experiencing trouble hearing or your hearing has been declining, an ear, nose, and throat doctor may be able to offer you treatment options.


Have you noticed your throat and ears getting itchy more often than usual? Maybe you have had trouble breathing or your eyes have gotten red and watery. An allergic reaction can occur anywhere in your body because allergies happen where immune system cells are fighting off germs that are breathed in, swallowed, or touched.  An ENT and allergy specialist will be able to test for various allergies to assess exactly what is causing this reaction. 

Ringing in your Ears

Tinnitus is a condition that causes ringing in your ears, which can be an uncomfortable experience. When you have tinnitus, you will be able to hear a ringing sound, even when nothing is making a noise around you. You may have experienced temporary cases of tinnitus after a loud concert. This is a common occurrence, but this tinnitus usually goes away after a short period of time.

If you notice that the symptoms of tinnitus persist or get worst, you may want to visit an ear, nose and throat doctor. They may be able to offer treatment and therapy to address the condition such as using sound machines that can help to mask the sounds you experience from tinnitus. Tinnitus does not usually directly lead to hearing loss, but it can cause severe discomfort and exacerbate symptoms of hearing loss.

Frequent Ear Infections

Ear infections are a common ailment for children, but they are not as common among adults. However, adults who are experiencing chronic ear infections or pain in their ears may want to visit an ear, nose, and throat doctor to check for more serious conditions. Chronic infections in the ear tend to be a sign of an underlying issue that can lead to more major damage in the future. 

Ear, nose, and throat doctors can help you identify the causes of your ear infection and help you treat your symptoms. Visiting your doctor early is a good preventative care practice that can help protect your hearing in the long run. ENT doctors will be able to provide treatments that can stop the infections before they develop into more severe medical issues.