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From sinusitis to ear infections, many of the most common complaints that bring patients to the doctor are treated by medical doctors called ear, nose, and throat physicians, or ENTs. An ENT doctor may also be called an otolaryngologist, because ENT medicine is formally known as otolaryngology.

What is an ENT doctor? ENTs treat conditions in our ears, nose, or throat that are often the cause of illness. They also treat many allergies and other sinus troubles. ENT maladies are so common that they account for more than half of all primary care appointments. But ENT doctors do much more than treat common ailments; they may also save lives and improve overall quality of life.

What Does An ENT Do?

ENTs treat conditions in the ears, nose, and throat, but also the head and neck. Let’s examine what an ENT doctor does in each area.

Ears: ENTs treat conditions such as imbalance, ear infections, hearing loss, tinnitus, nerve pain, and facial and cranial nerve problems. Some conditions are treated with pharmaceuticals, but ENTs also perform ear surgeries.

Nose: ENT doctors are experts in nasal allergies and chronic sinusitis. They also perform surgeries on the nose and sinuses, including those to improve breathing.

Throat: ENTs also aid patients with swallowing and speech problems. In addition, they may treat cancers of the throat and conditions involving the esophagus.

Head and Neck: ENTs treat many different conditions in the head and neck area, including tumors and traumatic injuries. Here, ENT doctors often perform reconstructive and plastic surgery. ENTs also treat thyroid disorders, parathyroid diseases, and more.

ENTs who specialize in surgery do remarkable work, such as saving hearing through microsurgery on the middle ear. ENT doctors also treat cancers of the head, neck, and throat, removing tumors and then performing reconstructive surgeries. ENT surgeons also perform plastic surgery for conditions ranging from cleft palates and other congenital conditions, restoring damage after trauma, or reconstruction after surgery. 

Through their treatment of nasal passages, ENTs can help people with sleep disorders. Surgical correction can reduce or eliminate sleep apnea, a condition that impacts at least 22 million people in the United States.

Many ENTs treat children with frequent ear infections or other ear conditions. Some ENT doctors specialize in pediatric care.

Finally, some ENTs conduct research at universities. In addition to treating patients and teaching students, these ENTs conduct research and publish journal articles

There are many different answers to the question of what does an ENT do? This means there are many different career options available to you within the specialty.  

Education Needed to Become an ENT

ENT education requirements involve several steps. First, you must become a physician by graduating from an accredited medical school, such as Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM)*. The path to a medical degree at RUSM, which is located on the Caribbean island of Barbados, is similar to that of  at United States-based schools: two years of medical science classes and two years of hands-on clinical training, though there is some flexibility on timing. For RUSM students, the medical sciences curriculum is completed at the Barbados campus; the clinical training can be completed at affiliated teaching hospitals in the United States.

During clinical training, RUSM students complete core rotations in internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, family medicine, obstetrics/ gynecology, and psychiatry. Each individual student, then, selects from among dozens of specialty elective clerkships to fulfill their clinical requirements.

During the fourth and final year of medical school, students prepare for the next phase of their medical education: residency. At RUSM, the Office of Career Advisement (OCA) can help students determine which residency specialty—such as otolaryngology—suits them best. The OCA also helps students negotiate the National Resident Matching Program® (NRMP®)—a placement system which medical students who wish to become licensed in the United States use to “match” with a medical residency in the United States. A clinical ENT residency is five years, while research ENT residencies may run six years or more. In 2021, RUSM had a first-time residency attainment rate of 92 percent for 2020-2021 graduates, a rate comparable with the overall match rate (93 percent) for medical schools in the United States.

After completing ENT training, a physician may be certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (ABOHNS). The medical association that represents ENT doctors is called the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS). With additional training, ENT physicians may subspecialize in a specific area of otolaryngology. These subspecialties include:

  • Audiology
  • Facial plastic and reconstructive surgery
  • General otolaryngology and sleep surgery
  • Head and neck surgery
  • Laryngology
  • Neurotology
  • Otology
  • Pediatric otolaryngology
  • Rhinology and endoscopic skull base surgery
  • Skull base surgery

Now that you know the answer to what is an ENT doctor and how to become one, prepare yourself for the challenge and get all the necessary application materials in place. Then apply for admission to RUSM to start your journey. 

Related Resources:

*Ross University School of Medicine is accredited by the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and other Health Professions (CAAM-HP,

CAAM-HP is the legally constituted body established in 2003 under the aegis of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), empowered to determine and prescribe standards and to accredit programs of medical, dental, veterinary and other health professions education on behalf of the contracting parties in CARICOM.

Accreditation by CAAM-HP is a rigorous, peer review process which examines all aspects of a medical program. The CAAM-HP board, an independent and autonomous body of professionals, only certifies medical schools which are operating at the highest levels of industry standards.

Through this accreditation, the CAAM-HP provides assurance to medical students, graduates, the medical profession, healthcare institutions and the public that programs leading to qualifications in medicine meet appropriate national and international standards for educational quality, and that the graduates have a sufficiently complete and valid educational experience.

In 2020, 91% of RUSM students passed the initial step of the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®) on the first attempt. And in 2022-2023, results show yet another strong year for RUSM with a 98% first-time residency attainment rate* thus far. Located on the island of Barbados and with a network of more than 15,000 alumni, RUSM is one of the largest providers of doctors for the U.S. healthcare system. RUSM graduates practice in all 50 states and in Puerto Rico.

*First time residency attainment rate is the percent of students attaining a 2023-24 residency position out of all graduates or expected graduates in 2022-23 who were active applicants in the 2023 NRMP match or who attained a residency position outside the NRMP match.