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.
Otolaryngologists are also called 'ENTs' because their area of specialty is the ears, nose, and throat. Otolaryngologists treat most of the diseases and disorders that affect the head or neck. They can provide routine medical care, such as giving hearing tests or treating chronic conditions such as allergies. Otolaryngologists also perform a number of surgeries on the head and neck. Some of the illnesses and issues that otolaryngologists treat include:
Ear problems - hearing loss, infections, tinnitus or ringing on the ears, balance disorders, trauma or fracture of the temporal bone, prominent or large ears (using 'ear pinning' plastic surgery)
Nose issues - sinus infections, allergies, nasal polyps, smell disorders
Throat issues - voice and swallowing problems, infections or trauma to the larynx or esophagus, sleep disorders (such as sleep apnea)
Head and neck problems - infections, trauma, tumors, conditions requiring plastic surgery
Because they perform so many delicate surgeries of the face, otolaryngologists are often sought out as plastic surgeons when facial surgery is required. Their specialized knowledge of the anatomy of the head and face can make a real difference in the outcome of a surgery, from a brow lift to a total facial reconstruction after trauma.