Type of Surgery

Introduction to Ear, Nose, and Throat Surgery

Last updated: 02/23/2009

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‚ÄĒthat is, those surgeries which are not cosmetic procedures such as rhinoplasty and blepharopasty‚ÄĒqualify 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.

Last Updated: 02/23/2009

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