Angie's LIST Guide to
Pediatric ear, nose and throat care

Children with issues such as hearing loss and sinus or breathing problems may need to make an appointment with a pediatric ear, nose and throat care specialist, also known as an otolaryngologist.


Children often are diagnosed with illnesses and conditions that affect adults, but because of their special needs, they are often referred to pediatric specialists. Specialists in all areas can provide treatment plans to improve health and quality of life.
Children often are diagnosed with illnesses and conditions that affect adults, but because of their special needs, they are often referred to pediatric specialists. Specialists in all areas can provide treatment plans to improve health and quality of life.

What pediatric ENT doctors treat

Your family pediatrician can diagnosis and treat minor problems in your child's ear, nose or throat such as earaches and sore throats, but a pediatric otolaryngologist is specially trained to offer more extensive medical and surgical treatments for children.

Pediatric ENTs offer comprehensive care for an array of conditions, the most common of which include recurrent ear infections, allergies, sinusitis, adenoiditis, tonsillitis, recurrent strep throat, snoring, lumps in the neck, speech and language issues, sleep disorders and hearing loss.

Hearing loss

ENT doctors most commonly treat both temporary and permanent hearing loss in children. Temporary hearing loss can occur for a variety of reasons, such as compressed earwax (cerumen impaction), swimmer's ear (otitis external), trauma from injury to the head or ear and inflammation in the middle ear (otitis media).

Otitis media is the most common reason for earache, swelling and temporary loss of hearing in children, and it comes in two primary forms: acute otitis media and otitis media with effusion. Acute otitis media typically occurs when a child has a cold, upper respiratory infection, allergies or from a buildup of mucus and pus behind the eardrum due to bacteria or a virus. Otitis media with effusion typically occurs at the start of an ear infection or when an ear infection is recovering. Either before or after an ear infection, fluid will accumulate in the ear, resulting in otitis media with effusion. If the fluid does not drain, the ear infection is not treated or the child has chronic ear infections, the permanent hearing loss may result.

One of the main reasons parents seek out a pediatric ENT specialist is for ear tubes to help with ear infections. Though the procedure peaked during the 1970s, ear tubes are still a popular treatment for relieving ear infections. The tubes allow air to get into the middle ear, release the fluid from the middle ear, prevent the future buildup of fluid and help decrease the feeling of pressure, which reduces the pain.

You may notice signs that your child is experiencing hearing loss. He or she may not be able to understand certain words or may speak louder than normal. If a child is experiencing hearing loss, some of his symptoms may include difficulties understanding speech, muffled sounds or pitched ringing in his or her ears.

  • According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, congenital hearing loss affects up to 3 out of every 1,000 babies born. About 60 percent of incidents of deafness in infants are due to congenital hearing loss.

Finding an ear, nose and throat specialist

If your child needs to see a pediatric ear, nose and throat care specialist, you'll need to visit your pediatrician for an exam and referral. The pediatrician will decide whether the problem your child is experiencing requires the care of a pediatric otolaryngologist.

Your pediatrician will know of local pediatric otolaryngologists, but if you intend to contact a local pediatric otolaryngological office on your own, make sure to verify their certification with the American Academy of Otolaryngology. Also, check their qualifications, education, continuing education, accepted insurance plans and affiliated hospitals by consulting Angie's List, where you can also see member reviews and rankings. 

Collect the names of a few different local pediatric otolaryngologists and call their offices to find out if they are accepting new patients. Ask about their office hours, their availability to take on new patients, what hospital they are associated with and if they accept your health insurance.

Make a list of what to look for during your child's appointment. Is the staff friendly toward children? Does the waiting room include children's activities? Is the doctor courteous and respectful to you and your child?

If you or your child are uncomfortable or do not feel as though the doctor is a good fit, call the next otolaryngologist on your list until you find a doctor you and your child are happy with.

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