Introduction to Ear, Nose, and Throat Surgery


If you’ve ever suffered from a stuffy nose or a blocked ear, then you already have an idea of how uncomfortable even minor problems that affect the ear, nose, and throat areas can be. These interconnected passageways in the head and neck are a source of extreme inconvenience when something goes wrong. Luckily, various types of ear, nose, and throat surgeries are designed to correct problems with breathing, hearing, and stuffiness. Cochlear implants, for example, are electronic devices that grant even truly deaf patients the ability to pick up basic sounds. Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery (FESS) performs a similar function for patients who suffer from chronic sinusitis by restoring normal ventilation abilities. Other commonly performed procedures include tracheotomies, which are often used in emergency situations to provide an immediate airway when normal breathing is blocked, and endolymphatic shunts to drain excess fluid from the inner ear.

Costs of Ear, Nose, and Throat Surgery

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the cost of a cochlear implant can easily exceed $40,000. This figure does include both, the cost of the device itself, as well as hospital fees and rehabilitation sessions that are required after the initial operation.

FESS procedures are significantly cheaper at about $4,000. Because the methods used are minimally invasive and limited to a very small area of the nose, FESS avoids the complications and the potential costs incurred by more extensive sinus surgeries of old.

Is Insurance Available for Ear, Nose, and Throat Surgery?

In short, yes. Most ear, nose, and throat surgeries outlined here—that is, those surgeries which are not cosmetic procedures such as rhinoplasty and blepharoplasty—qualify for insurance coverage. The extent to which your healthcare provider will shoulder the costs depends on their policies and your situation.

Tracheotomies, for example, are almost always performed in emergency situations when the patient has no other passageway open for airflow. In a situation of such dire necessity, your insurance policy will cover all or almost all of the cost of emergency medical attention.

FESS and endolymphatic shunt procedures are a bit different. They address sinusitis and vertigo, respectively, two afflictions that have other alternate solutions. It is advisable to turn to nonsurgical treatments beforehand; only if you find no relief in more common methods should you choose surgery. In this case, give your insurance company sufficient documented evidence of your previous attempts to correct the condition. When FESS and endolymphatic shunt surgery are presented as the most medically viable solutions available, your provider should be willing to cover you.

Cochlear implants are unusual in that the patients eligible for such procedures are very limited in scope: either young children born with extreme hearing defects, or very elderly patients who have almost completely lost what hearing they had. In recent years, insurance coverage has improved vastly due to a drive to educate the public about the benefits of cochlear implants. The medical and even financial benefits have been well established for the two groups listed above, and receiving at least some financial assistance from your healthcare provider is almost guaranteed.

Finding an Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon

Ear, nose, and throat surgeons are uniquely well-versed in operating on all the structures of the head and neck. The number of surgeons who count themselves in this specialty area has grown to be in the tens of thousands in the US alone. So how is the uninformed patient to decide, from amidst that overwhelming surplus of options, which ear, nose and throat surgeon is the best fit for him- or herself? Here are a few starting tips to get you on your way to walking into the operating room:

Safety in Specialties

Compared to structures such as the shoulder, hip, and spine, the ear, nose, and throat seem small.  However, their size belies a level of complexity hidden within, and so it is that even this physically small area of the body is comprised of a dizzying assortment of tissues, nerves, airways, and blood vessels. The composition of the nose and that of the inner ear are nothing alike; you might shy away from choosing a surgeon who specializes in the former if the operation you need is for the latter. One of the best ways to go about searching for an ear, nose or throat surgeon is to pick from among those who specialize specifically in the procedure that you need.

Look for a surgeon who has not only received degrees and accreditation in his or her specialty area, but who has also continued to make use of the most up-to-date technology and techniques available. A perusal of his or her recent operation history should reveal numerous procedures similar too, or better yet, of the exact same type as, the one that interests you. Experience, more than almost anything else, is the best predictor of a surgeon’s abilities.

Using Directories

With the type of ear, nose, and throat surgeon that you want in mind, a great resource from which to begin your search is a directory. Look to well-established organizations like the American Academy of Otolaryngology to provide a member list that you can trust. Simply by virtue of being accepted as members, the surgeons you find listed in these kinds of directories already come with a mini-background check done for you. It’s a simple and painless way to get started.


If the process of sifting through long lists and ticking choices off without ever seeing a surgeon face-to-face seems to be missing something, then you may want to begin your search with some word-of-mouth recommendations instead. You might turn to friends and coworkers who have had ear, nose, or throat surgery, or ask your personal physician to drop some names. Another ever-more-common phenomenon is the use of internet boards and chats to collect personal accounts from a wider variety of people than you may have access to physically. Word-of-mouth can be a wonderful way to reap information from eclectic sources, but remember that the most enthusiastic recommendation doesn’t replace good, solid investigation on your

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