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What is the difference between Otolaryngology and Otorhinolaryngology?

A surgical team from Wilford Hall Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas, performs ear surgery on a patient

Otolaryngology vs Otorhinolaryngology

Otolaryngology is the integrated study of ear, nose and throat (ENT). The word Oto refers to ear and originates from the word ‘laryngo’ refers to larynx which is an organ situated in between the nose and the throat. Larynx is the voice box and is made up of vocal cords. Otorhinolaryngology is the same as otolaryngology. The word ‘rhino’ refers to the nose, and hence, when the three are combined, they form the study of ear, nose and throat.

Otorhinolaryngology is a medical specialty and needs further studies after basics of human medicine. A doctor who studies otolaryngology is called as an otolaryngologist. These doctors are often referred to as ENT doctors. Otolaryngology is just the shorter form of otorhinolarnygology and a further shortened form is ENT. The ENT doctor deals with paranasal sinuses troubles along with conditions of the ears, nose, larynx, mouth and throat. This branch of medicine, otorhinolaryngology deals with ear troubles like otosclerosis, tympanic perforation (ear drum perforation), mastoiditis, otitis externa (external ear and outer auditory canal) and otitis media (middle ear) inflammation, Meniere’s disease, vertigo (giddiness), hearing loss, tinnitus (pathological condition where a shrill whistle is heard in the ear constantly), etc. The nasal problems dealt with in this field are nasal obstruction caused due to deviated nasal septum, nasal polypectomy (polyp removal), epistaxis (nose bleed), stuffy nose, smell disorders, rhinoplasty (cosmetic surgery where appearance of the nose is changed), nasal tumors and allergic rhinitis, etc. The throat complaints that can be solved by an ENT surgeon are tonsillectomy (removal of tonsils), tonsillitis, larynx odema, voice hoarseness, laryngitis, tracheostomy, cancer of larynx, dysphonia (difficulty in speech and communication), deglutition (swallowing) problems, speaking and singing errors. Complaints like paranasal sinuses’ inflammation i.e. sinusitis also come under this field.

Otolaryngology is the branch of medicine that deals with diagnosis and treatment of problems of auditory functions and speech, taste dysfunction, head and neck cancer, swallowing disturbances, balance and vertigo problems and cosmetic reconstruction of any of these parts. Under the head and neck segments, otolaryngologists expertise in treating benign and malignant growths, facial trauma and deformities of both face and neck. A lot of precision and detailing is needed in otorhinolaryngology as the organs dealt within this sphere are responsible to maintain higher sensory functions like speech, voice, hearing, and breathing. Three of the five special senses that humans are gifted with- smell, hearing and taste, come under the reign of an ENT and it needs no explanation how important each of these are. Each of the organs involved appears very tiny and minute but plays a very important role in healthy functioning of the human body. The bones within the inner ear that conduct sound to the brain are as small as rice grains!

General medicine does help in identifying the etiology of the symptoms but accurate diagnosis and treatment of ear, nose, sinuses and throat is dealt with by the branch of otolaryngology. Further specialization in otolaryngology can be done in fields of allergy, facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, head and neck, laryngology, otology (neurology), rhinology, and pediatric otolaryngology.

Summary: Otolaryngology and otorhinolaryngology are essentially the same as the word ‘rhino’ refers to the nose. Initially, people referred to it with a lengthier name, but nowadays it is called as the ENT specialty. People are referred to otolaryngology doctors in case of deviant functioning of extremely important organs like ear, nose, larynx, throat, mouth, head and neck.


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