Why Should I Visit an Audiologist?
Do you know the difference between an audiologist, a hearing instrument specialist and an ear, nose and throat (ENT) practitioner? Each of these professionals is specially trained and qualified to deal with different aspects of hearing health, whether non-medical hearing loss, surgical problems or hearing aid technology.
Audiologists are often referred to as hearing doctors or ear doctors, and rightly so. These professionals have a comprehensive knowledge of the body’s auditory system and how sound works. They specialize in preventing, identifying, assessing and treating non-medical hearing disorders such as hearing loss, tinnitus and problems with balance. Most audiologists who practice at the clinical level possess a doctorate in audiology and must be nationally certified, as well as licensed to practice in their state. Some of the special skills an audiologist practices include the following:
• Conducting various types of hearing tests using specialized equipment
• Evaluating test results in order to diagnose hearing loss at all ages
• Conducting balance testing and providing treatment
• Presenting a variety of treatment options for hearing loss, including hearing aids and other assistive devices
• Fitting and adjusting hearing aids
• Providing hearing and speech rehabilitation, counseling, research and support
About 10 percent of the time, audiologists will identify medical causes of hearing loss, such as physical defects, trauma, infections or benign tumors. They refer these cases to an ENT (an otolaryngologist), who may recommend other medical treatments or surgery.
Most newborn infants are tested by an audiologist for hearing loss before being released from the hospital. After that, children receive periodic hearing checkups throughout their growing years, including school-based screening programs. As an adult, you may receive basic hearing screening as part of routine medical exams or checkups with your primary physician. Many of these tests aren’t designed to conclusively diagnose hearing loss, but rather to indicate the need for a full exam with an audiologist.
Besides these regular screenings, anyone who experiences sudden hearing loss or notices a gradual dulling of their hearing abilities should meet with an audiologist for a detailed exam as soon as possible. Many types of hearing loss are treatable; so trust one of your most valuable senses to the expert care of a licensed audiologist.