7 Things to Consider When Choosing an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist

Ear Nose and Throat Primary Care
Doctor examining patients ear in doctors office

If you or a family member suffers from chronic sinus pain, sore throats, hearing loss or ear infections, it’s probably time to see a doctor. The problem is, what kind of doctor do you visit?

“There are doctors who specialize in a variety of ear, nose and throat issues, called ‘ENTs’ for short,” says Catherine R. Lintzenich, M.D., an ear, nose and throat physician with Riverside ENT Physicians & Surgeons Williamsburg. “The medical name for this specialty is ‘otolaryngologist.’”

What an ENT Does

ENTs are highly-trained physicians who deal with the treatment of a variety of medical issues associated with the head and neck, including infections, pain, tumors, facial trauma and reconstruction.

Let’s look briefly at some of the conditions ENTs manage:

  • Ear problems. These include hearing loss, poor balance, a buildup of earwax, ruptured eardrums, ear infections and persistent ringing in the ears.
  • Nose and mouth issues. ENTs treat hay fever and allergies, persistent stuffy noses, sinus problems, dry mouth and mouth sores, deviated septa and nasal polyps.
  • Throat conditions. In addition to managing sore throats, ENTs treat acid reflux disease, swallowing problems, swelling of the windpipe and speech difficulties.

How to Choose the Right ENT

There are several factors you should consider when choosing an ENT. Your primary care physician may have referred you to a specific practice, so you’ll want to check out the doctors there before making an appointment so you can select the one who’s the best fit for you. If you’re choosing your own practice, doing your homework ahead of time will help you find a doctor who optimally meets your needs.

Here are 7 things to look for when choosing a doctor.

  1. Check your insurance. Not all medical practices accept all insurance plans, so you’ll want to check that out first. Remember that insurance providers also have numerous different plans — for example, various HMOs and PPOs — and a practice may accept one type and not another from the same insurance company. If you’re unsure, call the doctor’s office or your insurance provider.
  2. Read the reviews. There are online health sites where you can check out other patients’ experiences with specific doctors. Since not everyone values the same qualities in a doctor or practice, decide what’s important to you. Is a gentle approach important? This can be key if you have anxiety or the patient is a child. Are you more concerned with efficiency and a short waiting time? Knowing your priorities will help you sort through the information you find.
  3. Investigate credentials and experience. The sites with reviews may also have some information about the doctors’ education and certifications, but a more comprehensive site is the National Committee for Quality Assurance, a non-profit organization that publishes a list of doctors with excellent credentials. 
  4. Look for specialty areas. Given the number of different conditions and diseases ENTs treat, many have specialties. If you have a specific issue you want addressed, you’ll want to research doctors who focus on that area. For example, a child with a hearing issue is likely to need a different sort of treatment than a senior with chronic sinus problems. Don’t be afraid to call the physician’s office and ask for their suggestions.
  5. What about convenience? Of course, the office location should be close enough to be manageable, but if you think you may need surgery, it’s worthwhile checking out which hospitals the doctor is affiliated with. Are the practice’s hours something you can work with? Some physicians also conduct virtual appointments that will prevent you from having to travel to the office. If that’s important to you, ask if that’s an option.
  6. Do age and gender matter? Some people have distinct preferences in this area. This information is generally available online on the review sites or on the practice’s own website. If these things are important to you, be sure to factor them into your decision.
  7. Ask for referrals. Your network of friends and relatives may be able to recommend a physician or practice they’ve had a good experience with in the past. You may also want to consider checking with your online social media groups.

Your Choice Matters

“As with any important decision, you want to make the best-informed one you possibly can,” says Dr. Lintzenich. “Selecting the right ENT will help ensure you get high-quality care from someone who meets your needs.”

If your primary care provider has referred you to Riverside ENT or you are looking for the right specialist, read about our services and give Dr. Lintzenich a call at 757-316-5777 to make an appointment. 


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