Audiologists are specialists who diagnose and treat hearing-related problems. They can help you find the right hearing aid for you and offer advice on how to deal with your condition so that it doesn’t interfere with your life. Some audiologists work in hospitals, clinics, or private practices; others work in public settings such as schools and universities.
ENT doctors may refer patients to audiologists in order to diagnose and treat hearing loss or other issues related to auditory function. The most common types of conditions that require an audiologist’s expertise include:
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Impaired hearing due to infection or trauma
- Sensorineural hearing loss (damage caused by aging)
- Impacted earwax issues
Audiologists are highly trained professionals licensed to practice in the United States. To become an audiologist, they must have a bachelor’s and master’s degree from an accredited college or university.
Some audiologists may also refer patients with balance issues related to their ears (vestibular system) or dizziness unrelated to a medical condition like vertigo.
Testing with an audiologist
An audiologist will ask about your health history before giving you an exam.
They may ask about:
- Your general health.
- The health of your family members.
- Your hearing history. This includes any past ear infections, surgeries, or injuries that may have affected the functioning of your ears.
- Your occupation and hobbies as well, which can also impact your hearing ability.
If you have any concerns about your hearing, an audiologist can give you a complete ear exam and determine if you have a medical problem that needs treatment.
They will look for signs of earwax or other debris. This can be done through an instrument called an otoscope.
Testing with an audiologist
Audiologists use a variety of tests and tools to diagnose hearing problems. They may even perform more than one test at a time, depending on the type of hearing loss that you have.
Some examples of different types of tests are:
Audiometry: This assesses how well you hear sounds at various frequencies (pitches) and intensities (loudness). Your audiologist will ask you to identify words or tones played over headphones through an audiometer device, which measures your responses via headphones or earphones placed in each ear.
Tympanometry: Uses air pressure waves directed through an ear canal opening into the middle ear space
Speech recognition: Excerpts of speech are played, and you must repeat what was said.
Your audiologist will take measurements from these tests and combine them with other information they collect during the appointment to determine what type of hearing loss you have, whether it’s conductive, sensorineural, or mixed, as well as its causes.
Hearing aid fittings
Hearing aids can be complicated devices that require careful fitting to ensure they work properly. Getting fitted for a hearing aid starts with a consultation with an audiologist.
During this appointment, the audiologist will ask about your needs and preferences, so they can recommend the best type of hearing aid for you. The next step is measuring your ears to ensure they’re compatible with the chosen model.
Once everything fits appropriately, the audiologist will help you adjust the hearing prescription on your device to fit your hearing loss needs.
Hopefully this answers a few questions you have had about what an audiologist does. Not everyone who fits hearing aids is an audiologist, so it pays to do your research.