Treatments & Therapies

Ear, nose and throat medicine – treatment, effects and risks


Ear, nose and throat medicine is a branch of medicine dealing with diseases in the ear, nose and throat area. It includes the prevention, detection, treatment and aftercare of diseases of the ear , nose , mouth and upper respiratory tract. Treatment methods include both surgical, microsurgical and drug-based procedures.

What is ear, nose and throat medicine?

Ear, nose and throat medicine (ENT medicine) is a special field of medicine that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, injuries, malformations and functional disorders of the ears, oral cavity , pharynx , trachea , larynx , the upper airways and esophagus .

In English, the abbreviation ENT is used , which means something like “Ears Nose and Throat”. In the international professional world, the term ORL stands for Oto-Rhino-Laryngology . ENT medicine mainly uses the methods of scientific medicine. But natural remedies are also used. Training to become a specialist in ENT medicine takes five years. After studying medicine, two years of basic training and then three years of specialist training in the field of ENT medicine are required. Compliance with the high scientific standards of ENT medicine is guaranteed by the German Society for Ear, Nose and Throat Medicine, Head and Neck Surgery.

This is an association of mainly scientifically active ENT doctors. A member of the German Professional Association of Ear, Nose and Throat Physicians is also on the board of this society. This professional association consists in turn of an association of practicing ENT doctors who have their own practice. It is used to exercise the rights of freelance ENT doctors vis-à-vis health insurance companies and the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians.

Treatments & Therapies

As part of ear, nose and throat medicine, various diseases, injuries, malformations or tumors of the ears, nose, paranasal sinuses , oral cavity, pharynx and dysfunctions of the sensory organs in this area are examined and treated. Functional disorders include, but are not limited to, hearing, voice, speech and language disorders .Ear, nose and throat medicine is divided into several anatomical blocks such as ears, upper airways, lower airways and oral cavity. The anatomical block of ears includes the auricles , the earlobes , the auditory canal , the middle ear and the inner ear . This block also includes central auditory pathways and auditory centers. In the area of ​​the ears, a wide range of infectious and non-infectious diseases are treated. Examples are middle ear infections, childhood diseases such as mumps , general ear infections, tinnitus , hearing disorders, hearing impairment or deafness .

Malformations and tumors in the ear area are also part of the treatment spectrum of ENT medicine. The upper airways consist of the nose, paranasal sinuses, nasopharynx, pharynx, and adenoids . Particular diseases in this area are sinus infections , infections in the throat area, tonsillitis and many other infections. The lower airways are made up of the larynx and trachea. A well-known disease in this area is laryngeal cancer . The oral cavity is considered along with the tongue , salivary glands , and palatine tonsils . Inflammation in the mouth and throat can have many causes.

Infectious processes caused by bacteria , fungi or viruses as well as caustic or toxic substances or food that is too hot often play a role. Often, however, the ENT area is not the starting point of a disease, but is also affected in the context of another underlying health disorder. For this reason, there is interdisciplinary cooperation between ear, nose and throat medicine and other medical fields. There are particular overlaps with the specialist areas of pediatrics, pediatric surgery, allergology , dermatology , neurology , oral and maxillofacial surgery , and oral surgeryand internal medicine with a focus on pneumology .

Diagnosis & examination methods

Ear, nose and throat medicine is a complex field that has to deal with the diagnosis and therapy of many different diseases. For this reason, a variety of examination methods are used depending on the disease.In the case of mild and frequently occurring infectious diseases of the upper respiratory tract, often only a medical history is required to determine the cause of the disease. Because many infections occur more frequently in certain seasons and are transmitted via the airway. However, if there is a chronic disease of the upper and lower airways, more intensive investigations must be carried out. Laboratory tests are carried out on swabs from the mucous membrane of the mouth, tongue or throat. Possible pathogens are identified here. For a more detailed examination of the nose and paranasal sinuses, a so-called rhinoscopy is often performed.

This is a nasal endoscopy, in which a tiny camera with a light source on a cable is inserted into the nose and provides images of the nasal passages and the exits of the paranasal sinuses. In a posterior rhinoscopy, a mirror is guided through the oral cavity and pharynx into the posterior nostrils in order to carry out reflections there. In the anterior nasal reflection, the anterior nasal passages are illuminated using a funnel with a headlamp. The air permeability of the nose can be checked with a nasal function test. The ear can also be examined with a headlamp attached to a funnel.

For more intensive examinations, an ear microscope is used. A hearing test is used to test hearing ability. The larynx can be examined using a strobe, for example. The vibrations of the vocal folds are made visible. Other examination methods also include neuro-otological examinations such as experimental nystagmus provocations or the functional examination of the neck-spine system. If allergies are suspected , non-specific and allergen-mediated provocation tests are used, among other things.

Sleep laboratories are available to examine sleep apnea . In the context of ear, nose and throat medicine, imaging methods such as X-ray examinations , ultrasound , MRI or CT are also used. Interdisciplinary cooperation with doctors from other disciplines is often necessary for the diagnosis.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.