An audiologist is a health care professional who diagnoses and manages the treatment and care of patients with hearing and balance-related problems.
They use a wide array of medical devices and tests. These include audiometers, tympanometry, videonystagmography (VNG), otoacoustic emissions, and more. They use these to identify the extent and causes of hearing issues.
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Audiologists offer a wide assortment of treatments for people suffering from hearing loss and balance issues. They work with you and your family to find the right treatment plan for you. Some of these conditions and disorders can include:
- Auditory process disorders.
- Hearing loss.
- Noise-induced hearing loss
Along with giving diagnoses, audiologists set you up with and help you use assistive technologies. They do this so you can treat these symptoms. Assistive technologies and treatments that an audiologist may recommend include:
- Amplified telephones and other listening devices.
- Assistive listening devices (ALDs).
- Aural rehabilitation.
- Cochlear implants.
- Hearing aids.
Counseling is also an important part of what audiologists do for patients. Audiologists go through training and clinical instruction to learn how to best help you as a patient. They help you manage your hearing loss so you can adjust to your environment and your social interactions.
Differences Between Audiologists, Otologists, and ENTs
An otolaryngologist is a physician who specializes in disorders of the ears, nose, and throat. Because of this, ENTs are another term for them. In general, an ENT will take on a broader scope of medical care, while an audiologist specializes in hearing care.
Typically, patients with a gradual loss of hearing that has lasted for a long time will seek an audiologist for non-invasive treatment. An ENT is more likely to deal with sudden and profound hearing loss that has happened because of an illness or injury.
Otologists, or neurologists, are physicians who specialize in more complex ear conditions and surgeries.
Understanding that audiologists don’t perform surgery or treat more severe ear conditions is essential. ENTs and otologists, however, are physicians. They can perform surgeries — for example, otologists can perform ear surgeries such as placing cochlear implants.
Where You Can Find an Audiologist
Audiologists work with many different organizations and institutions such as:
- ENT offices.
- Private practices.
- Schools and universities.
- Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals.
When to See an Audiologist
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), anyone who has concerns about their hearing should see an audiologist. Your ENT, otologist, or primary care physician will often refer you to an audiologist for testing and treatment.
Other signs that you may have hearing loss or hearing-related issues can include:
- A consistent need to turn up the volume on the television or radio.
- Difficulty following conversations.
- Family members and loved ones expressing that you may have an issue with your hearing.
- Feeling irritable after a long conversation.
- Issues hearing the doorbell or telephone ring.
- Issues hearing people over the phone.
- Misunderstanding people and/or asking them to repeat questions.
- Ringing, buzzing, clicking, humming, or pain in your ear.
- Trouble hearing in large gatherings.
- Voices sound muffled and speech sounds too soft.
Many of these symptoms may also naturally get worse with age. If you notice sudden changes in your hearing that cause concern, contact an ENT, otologist, or your health care provider. From there, they may refer you to an audiologist for further testing and treatment.
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