Medical doctors who treat hearing loss: Otolaryngologists and neurotologists

Contributed by Joy Victory, managing editor, Healthy Hearing

If you experience hearing loss, you may be referred to an otolaryngologist or a neurotologist to determine the underlying cause of your condition.

What is an otolaryngologist?

Otolaryngologists are medical doctors who treat problems of the ear, nose and throat, hence why they're also known as ENTs.

ENT doctors diagnose and treat a wide variety of problems related to breathing, swallowing, drinking, speaking, balance, sleeping, and hearing, among other issues. They can perform many types of surgery involving the head and neck.

When it comes to hearing and the auditory system, ENT doctors can rule out and diagnose causes of hearing loss. They often work closely with audiologists and/or hearing instrument specialists who can treat common types of hearing loss, such as age-related hearing loss and noise-induced hearing loss, usually through hearing aids. ENTs also diagnose vestibular disorders, such as Meniere's disease.

Otolaryngologists can also sub-specialize into even more specific areas of the ear, nose and throat, such as cancer surgery, pediatrics, plastic surgery and vascular surgery. When it comes to hearing loss, one important sub-specialty is known as otology/neurotology.

What is a neurotologist?

Otologists, also known as neurotologists, are ENT doctors who sub-specialize in complex problems of the inner ear, auditory nerve and base of the skull. They've received additional training to specialize in this area.

What problems do neurotologists treat?

Perhaps the most well-known procedure that neurotologists perform is cochlear implant surgery. They can also treat balance and dizziness problems, skull base or ear anatomy disorders, tinnitus, and acoustic neuroma tumors deep within the ear or auditory nerve. They are also qualified to perform surgical implantation of bone-anchored hearing systems as well.

Do you need an ENT or otologist?

Do you have a hearing problem? You may first need to see a primary care doctor for a referral to a specialist. Be sure to check with your insurance provider to find a provider in your network. Our directory of hearing care professionals includes many ENT offices and may be a good place to start, too.

If you or a loved one experiences hearing loss, you may be referred to an ENT or neurotologist for specialty care. These doctors treat disorders or the ear, nose and throat and perform skull base surgery, including cochlear implants.