If you are experiencing any type of hearing loss, you likely need very specific and specialized treatment to manage the situation. While many medical doctors can help diagnose the underlying cause, they may refer you to an audiologist for treatment and continued care. These specialists are highly trained and can provide many options to help improve, slow or combat hearing loss.
What Is an Audiologist?
An audiologist is a type of medical professional who specializes in the treatment, management and prevention of hearing loss. In addition, audiologists also treat patients who are dealing with balance issues since these often arise from problems with the inner ear. Some audiologists can even help people who have auditory processing disorders.
While many audiologists do earn their doctorate in audiology, a master’s degree is the minimum requirement. Rigorous training, continuing education and official licensure are required to practice audiology. Even though not all audiologists are doctors, these professionals play a very important role in maintaining hearing health.
When Should You See an Audiology Specialist?
It is important to note that there are many reasons a person could experience sudden or worsening hearing loss. You should always see a physician in these situations in order to determine the true cause of the problem. Temporary hearing loss or equilibrium issues do not usually require an appointment with an audiologist. Congestion caused by allergies, viruses or sinus infections is often to blame in these situations. These symptoms can be evaluated and treated by a primary care physician or ENT.
However, issues that result from an injury or are chronic in nature should often be evaluated by an audiologist. Even so, there is a good chance an audiologist won’t be your first step when dealing with potential hearing or balance issues. Many people are referred to these specialists by other doctors.
How Can Audiologists Help Patients?
During an appointment, an audiology specialist can perform numerous evaluations and tests to determine the extent of any hearing loss or ear damage. These may include:
- A visual examination with an otoscope
- A hearing screening
- Acoustic reflex measurements
- Tympanometry tests
These exams help audiologists determine which type of treatment plan would be appropriate for the patient’s hearing health. People may be prescribed a hearing aid or other supplemental listening devices. In some situations, surgery may be recommended for cochlear implants, to drain fluid, to remove blockages or to place tubes. Those with equilibrium issues may need physical therapy or additional medical treatment to remedy the problem.
Whom Can an Audiologist Treat?
Audiologists can treat patients of all ages, from the youngest of newborns all the way to senior adults. They can help people who are experiencing symptoms due to:
- Genetic conditions
- Trauma or injury
- Infections or other illnesses
- Underlying medical conditions
Many cancer patients will need to find an audiologist at some point as well. According to the American Academy of Audiology, as many as 80% of people in this group go on to experience ototoxicity, which is damage to the hearing organs as a result of chemotherapy treatment.
When it comes to hearing loss and ear health, early intervention can make a big difference in improving your quality of life and slowing the progression of these issues. If you need to see an audiology specialist, don’t delay.
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