Otologists/neurotologists are otolaryngologists, or ear nose and throat doctors, that specifically treat problems affecting the ears or balance. They may also treat tumors and nerve disorders that affect the area surrounding the structure of the ear, such as the temporal bone or base of the skull. Otologists/neurotologists have an interest in neurological ear problems, or disorders affecting the way the ear connects to the brain. These specialists offer both medical and surgical treatment, and they typically treat both adults and children.
The specialty may be referred to as otology/neurotology, otology and neurotology, otoneurology, neuro-otology, or sometimes simply as “O/N.” All of these titles refer to physicians who treat disorders that afflict balance, the ear, and the bones and nerves surrounding the ear. Examples of some of the conditions treated by otologist/neurotologists include:
- Hearing loss or tinnitus
- Infectious diseases of the ear
- Dizziness and vertigo
- Facial and cranial nerve disorders
- Tumor at the base of the skull
- Acoustic neuroma, or a tumor within the ear
- Meniere’s disease, an inner ear disorder that causes balance problems and a ringing sound
- Placement of cochlear implants
- Vestibular function disorders, which interfere with the sense of motion and balance
- Encephalocele or meningocele, where the brain bulges into the ear canal
These disorders are more than just typical hearing loss. They can severely impact quality of life, or in some cases even be life-threatening. Otologists/neurotologists are uniquely specialized doctors who work closely with related specialists such as audiologists and neurosurgeons to help patients with balance, ear, and nerve problems.