Frequently Asked Questions
An audiologist is a licensed healthcare professional with a clinical doctorate or masters degree in Audiology. They are trained to evaluate, diagnose and treat hearing loss and other auditory conditions including balance disorders and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Audiologists provide valuable insight and recommend products to help manage and prevent hearing loss, including hearing instrument technology and hearing protection.
Audiologists work with people of all ages, from newborns to adults; some acquire a specialization with certain age groups and types of hearing conditions.
Currently, audiologists need to have a clinical doctoral degree (AuD) and must be licensed by the state where they practice. In addition to state licensure, an audiologist may also be rewarded with the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology (CCC-A) by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
Audiologists perform the following hearing tests and treatments:
- Diagnostic hearing tests
- Annual hearing evaluations
- Hearing aid fittings, programming and consultations
- Earmold and earplug fittings and consultations
- Dizziness and balance testing and treatment
- Hearing aid repairs, service, and maintenance
- Pediatric hearing loss detection and treatment
- Hearing loss prevention and protection programs
- Aural rehabilitation/Hearing rehabilitation and auditory training
- Custom musicians earplugs and in-ear- monitors
- Tinnitus treatment programs for ringing and buzzing in the ears
- Sound therapy and counseling
- Cochlear implant candidacy evaluations and implant programming
The onset of hearing loss often happens gradually, so it might be hard to detect in the early stages. In most cases, people close to or usually around the person with undiagnosed hearing loss are the ones who can notice the hearing problems first. It is important to have an annual hearing evaluation, in the same way it is recommended to have an annual physical, teeth cleaning and eye exam.
If you or someone you know exhibits the following symptoms, consider consulting an audiologist:
- Perception that people are mumbling when speaking to you
- Constantly asking people to repeat themselves
- Playing the TV or radio louder than the volume level that others around you enjoy
- Missing the doorbell or the telephone
- Missing environmental sounds, such as birds chirping, your car turn signal and microwave beepings
- Hearing a ringing sound in your ears, especially when it is quiet
Hearing loss can be caused by several factors including exposure to loud noises, aging, ear infections, head or ear trauma, medications, congenital or genetic factors, diseases, and a number of other causes.
The most common cause of hearing loss (acquired) is exposure to loud noise. Hearing can be protected by wearing suitable hearing protection like ear plugs or ear muffs.
Hearing loss is diagnosed through a hearing evaluation conducted by an audiologist. Through a hearing test or diagnostic audiologic evaluation, an audiologist will determine the type and degree of hearing loss. The sensitivity, acuity and accuracy of speech understanding will also be evaluated in a hearing test.
A hearing evaluation covers a thorough case history and a physical inspection of the eardrum and the ear canal. Additional tests may also be performed depending on the symptoms. If an audiologist assesses that the hearing loss may benefit from medical intervention, a patient will be referred to a physician
The results of a hearing test are plotted on a chart called an audiogram. Hearing level (HL) is measured in decibels (dB) and is presented in general categories as follows:
Normal hearing (0-25 dB HL)
Mild hearing loss (26-40 dB HL)
Moderate hearing loss (41-70dB HL)
Severe hearing loss (71-90 dB HL)
Profound hearing loss (greater than 90 dB HL)
Hearing loss is categorized into three types, each caused by different factors and requires different levels of hearing aid technology.
Sensorineural hearing loss
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is a problem with the auditory nerve or the inner ear, specifically damage to the nerve fibers or hair cells of the auditory system. This is the most common type of hearing loss in adults. The most common causes of sensorineural hearing loss are noise exposure and age-related changes. A disturbance in the circulation of the inner ear may also result in hearing loss. Fortunately, there are numerous options for patients with sensorineural hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss is linked to problems in the middle or external ear. With conductive hearing loss, sound is not conducted efficiently through the ear canal, eardrum or middle ear bones, resulting in the reduction of hearing. This may be caused by earwax blockage or other obstruction in the ear canal, perforation in the eardrum, middle ear fluid, middle ear infection,or other disease of the middle or inner ear. If you are diagnosed with conductive hearing loss, you may benefit from hearing aids, medication, medical implants, or surgical options.
Mixed hearing loss
When there are problems in both the middle and inner ear, the diagnosis will be a mixed hearing impairment. Since mixed hearing loss links both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, treatment options will depend on the nature of the impairment and the symptoms.
People with any type and degree of hearing loss may benefit from an assistive listening device. Since the microphone of a standard hearing aid is either worn on or behind the ear, the ability to enhance the speaker-to-background-noise ratio may become limited. This is where ALDs enter the picture, as they are designed to increase the loudness of a desired sound, such as a public speaker, TV, or radio, without necessarily increasing the background noise.
ALDs include TV listening systems, alarm clocks, telephone amplifying devices, and auditorium-type assistive listening systems. Newer ALDs are small, wireless and compatible with digital hearing aids.
Tinnitus, often referred to as ringing in the ears, is a common disorder affecting more than 50 million people in the United States. Some people experience tinnitus as a roaring, hissing, whistling, buzzing, or clicking sound in the ear.
Technically, tinnitus is not the actual disease, but a symptom of another underlying medical condition of the ear or affected by another influencing health factor. Tinnitus can be constant or intermittent, with single or multiple tones. The perceived tinnitus volume can range from extremely loud to very soft.
American Tinnitus Association: https://www.ata.org/
The exact cause of tinnitus is not known. However, there are a wide variety of factors linked to tinnitus that include:
Noise-induced hearing loss
Age-related hearing loss
Wax build-up in the ear canal
Ear or sinus infections
Ear diseases and disorders
Certain types of tumors in the neck or head area
Head and neck trauma
Treatment will vary based on the severity and underlying condition of the tinnitus. There are several treatments to manage the perception of unwanted noise which include:
Hearing aids with tinnitus-masking features
Tinnitus retraining therapy
Avoidance of certain medications
There are various types of hearing healthcare professionals in the industry, varying in terms of education and training.
A hearing instrument specialist and an audiologist are two of the most in-demand professionals when it comes to seeking treatment or advice for hearing loss. To better understand and select which professional is best for your case, here’s the difference between the two –
An audiologist has a degree in audiology and is trained to diagnose, treat, and monitor disorders of the hearing and balance system. Audiologists are well-versed and trained in handling amplification devices, cochlear implants, acoustics, electrophysiology, auditory rehabilitation and psychophysics.
At a minimum, Doctors of Audiology complete an undergraduate and doctoral level degree in audiology. They also undergo a supervised externship prior to state licensure and national certification. Continuing education requirements must be completed so audiologists can maintain state licensure.
Hearing instrument specialist (HIS)
A hearing instrument specialist is licensed to conduct audiometric testing to fit and sell hearing aids. To get a license, a hearing instrument specialist needs to take a certification program in hearing aids, complete training hours in the relevant field and pass an exam. Hearing instrument specialists can fit and repair hearing aids. However, they cannot diagnose or treat hearing loss. For more questions about hearing loss and other related services, our team at the Austin Hearing Aid Center will be happy to assist you. Call us today at (512-444-8684).
Our office is conveniently located off Ben White and Menchaca Road. We take our time with each person, therefore, it is necessary to schedule your appointment in advance.