The New Zealand Society of Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery (NZSOHNS) is the organisation which represents Otolaryngologists/Head & Neck Surgeons (Ear, Nose & Throat Surgeons) in New Zealand. The membership of the NZSOHNS is composed primarily of Otolaryngologists/Head & Neck Surgeons registered in New Zealand.

Otolaryngology and Head & Neck Surgery is the branch of medicine that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the ear, nose, throat, and head & neck, including:

  • Hearing loss
  • Nasal and sinus disease
  • Tonsillitis
  • Voice and swallowing problems
  • Snoring and upper airway blockage
  • Salivary gland disorders
  • Benign tumours of the head and neck
  • Cancer of the head and neck (mouth, throat, sinuses and skin)

In conjunction with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, the NZSOHNS administers the New Zealand National Training Programme to select and train New Zealand's future Otolaryngologists/Head & Neck Surgeons.

The NZSOHNS holds an Annual Scientific Meeting each year for the professional development of its members. Otolaryngologists/Head & Neck Surgeons from other countries are also welcome to attend.



by Ron Goodey

The following summary will contain inaccuracies and omissions.  I hope other members of our society will correct or add to what I have written.  We owe it to ourselves and to our successors to document our society's heritage.

The Otago Medical School opened in 1875.  The School for Deaf opened in Sumner in 1880 with a strong emphasis on oralism. At that time much of the work which has become our specialty was carried out by family doctors and by general surgeons. Sub specialists in eye and ear surgery looked after ear and hearing problems.  They were usually trained in the United Kingdom.

James Hardie Neil from Otago served with the New Zealand Army in the Boer war. Subsequently he was with the New Zealand Army in England for the coronation of Edward VII.  While there the New Zealand Prime Minister Dick Seddon suffered acute otitis media.  James Hardie Neil arranged for him to have a myringotomy.  This led to opportunities for training in the emerging specialty of the ear nose and throat surgery.  In 1903 James Hardie Neil persuaded the Auckland Hospital Board that they needed an ear nose and throat surgeon on their honorary staff and that they should appoint him.  At that time our specialty involved mastoid surgery, sinus surgery and transoral procedures.  If incisions in the neck were required then a general surgeon was involved.  James Hardie Neil is best remembered for his innovative and revolutionary documentation of the broncho-pulmonary segments of the lung and in developing one of the world's first bronchoscopes.  However ear and hearing problems remained a major part of his workload.

In the early 1920s classes for deaf children were established in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch.  During the early 1920s adult lip reading classes were established in Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin and in 1927 in Hamilton.

In 1932 James Hardie Neil as chairman of the otological section of the New Zealand branch of the British medical Association advocated for and helped establish the League for the Hard of Hearing (now The Hearing Association) and became its first president.

Group hearing aids provided by generous donors revolutionised classes for deaf  children and the activities of the League for the Hard of Hearing many of whose members were relatively young adults who had otosclerosis.

The Auckland branch of the Deaf School opened in 1942 and together with the Sumner Deaf School and the branches of the League for the Hard of Hearing and potential importers and retailers pressured the government to provide subsidies for individual hearing aids for all those who would benefit.  James Hardie Neil perceived a risk that entrepreneurs would take over the supply of hearing aids.  In 1947 he persuaded most of his Auckland colleagues to inaugurate a provisional Otolaryngological Society of New Zealand for the express purpose of establishing  member's credentials to assess patient needs and approve state subsidies for hearing aids.

The following year on the 4th of February 1948, during a British Medical Association conference in Dunedin, ENT surgeons from all over the country discussed the Auckland initiative.  They were advised and encouraged by Dr Godsall from the recently formed ENT Society of New South Wales.  On a motion by Dr Alan Wardale from Dunedin the Otolaryngological Society of New Zealand was established.  James Hardie Neil was elected as its first president.  Our sister  society in Australia was not formed until the following year as it had required the formation of state ENT societies first and then their subsequent federation into a national society.

Our specialty expanded.  Scientific meetings were held with a variety of eminent overseas guest speakers.  In 1963 our members formed the Deafness Research Foundation primarily to support experiments to improve the surgical reconstruction of ears and hearing. 

In 1963 the Australian society formally invited members of the New Zealand society to attend its meeting which was probably the first international ear nose and throat meeting held in Australasia.  Subsequently members of the New Zealand society continued to attend the Australian society meeting each year. 

Our Australian colleagues suggested that the New Zealand society should host a combined meeting for both societies.  The first combined meeting was held in Rotorua in 1969.  Each society held its annual business meetings.  The academic program was opened by the Governor General. All members of both societies wore their academic gowns for the opening.  All wore black ties at the formal dinner.  There was a very distinguished panel of overseas speakers.  This first combined meeting was New Zealand's first international otolaryngology meeting and occurred 21 years after our establishment in Dunedin.  It was a true coming of age.  

Subsequently we had combined conferences in Te Anau in 1973, in Waitangi in 1978, in Queenstown in 1983, in Rotorua in 1989 and on the Gold Coast in 1996.  We have also held overseas meetings in Rarotonga in 1984, in Fiji in 1986 and in Samoa in 1999.

In 1987/88 the name of our society was changed to 'New Zealand Society of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery ', to reflect the increased scope of our specialty.


Ron Goodey