What is otology?
Otology is the branch of medicine concerned with the study of the ear and its diseases. This discipline is part of otorhinolaryngology, the speciality concerned with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the ear, nose and throat. Unlike otorhinolaryngologists (also known as Ear, Nose and Throat [ENT] specialists), otologists do not treat diseases of the nose and neck. Otologists are specialised in the physiology, function and diseases of the ear. Otology is a branch of medicine and surgery; as such otologists are also qualified to perform surgical interventions.
Which diseases does otology treat?
Otology is dedicated to treating ear problems, so not only hearing problems but also balance problems. The ear plays a fundamental role in balance and the sensation of vertigo and dizziness. Some of the most common pathologies in the otology clinic are the following:
- Otitis or ear infection: very frequent, especially in babies and children.
- Tinnitus: annoying perception of continuous sound or ringing, which sometimes prevents the patient from hearing clearly.
- Barotrauma: a lesion caused by changes in barometric (air) or water pressure.
- Menière’s disease: a common cause of vertigo and dizziness, due to liquid problems in the middle ear. It also usually causes tinnitus.
What are the subspecialties within otology?
Otology is focused on the study of the ear and is a subspecialty of otorhinolaryngology. Professionals may further specialise in a specific disease or a specific part of the ear (external, middle or internal ear), for example, damage to the eardrum or middle ear surgery.
When would I have to visit the otologist?
You may need to visit the otologist if you experience changes in hearing, or pain or discomfort in your ears, or dizziness or vertigo.