If you’ve never suffered with disorders of the ear, nose, and throat, consider yourself extremely lucky. If you have, you know they can severely impact your quality of life. People who suffer from chronic sinusitis experience painful headaches, facial pressure, and congestion for months on end. These symptoms can prevent you from carrying on daily activities, drastically impacting your productivity and your relationships. If you find yourself missing out on work or important social events due to ear, nose, and throat problems, it’s probably time to consult with an ear, nose, and throat specialist called an otolaryngologist or ENT.

Begin by asking family, friends, and coworkers whether there’s an ENT they’d recommend (or discourage you from seeing). You can also visit Wellness.com or ENTnet.org for a list of ENTs in your area and visit their websites to ascertain their qualifications.  Once you have a short list, it’s time to call and gather more information on each. Or better yet, schedule a visit with your top candidates so you can get a feel for their bedside manner and communication style.

One of the first factors to consider when choosing an ENT is board certification. The largest international certification organization for the treatment of the ear, nose, and throat is the American Board of Otolaryngology (ABO). To qualify for ABO certification, physicians must complete a four-year college degree, four years of medical school, and at least five years of additional specialty training. Next, they must pass the ABO examination. Board certifications tell you a doctor put in the extra time to become an expert in their field and upholds best medical practices, to maintain their certification.

The next thing to consider is how long they’ve been in practice.  The more experience a physician has, the more expertise and options they’ll be able to offer you. Their website should list awards and recognition they’ve received and publications in which they may have been published. Any public involvement or recognition speaks to the expertise of the doctor and their commitment in the field.

A quick search online will reveal whether a doctor has a presence outside of his or her practice, which could indicate dedication to staying abreast of the latest research and techniques. Publications can also indicate the doctors’ credibility as well as willingness to share their knowledge for the benefit of the medical field and community. Find out if the doctor is involved with any types of medical organizations. A bonus is if the doctor has been featured in national and international medical publications as a medical expert on a variety of subjects. Any medical mission trips they may have taken or non-profits they support speak to their heart and character.

Visit sites such as HealthGrades and WebMD to read real-life patient reviews. In summary, if you suffer from allergies, sinus pressure and pain, or any other ENT related problems, find the right ENT for you and get your quality of life back.