What is an audiologist?
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).
What types of tests and treatments do audiologists perform?
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
How do I know if I have hearing loss?
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
What is the most common cause of hearing loss?
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.
How is hearing loss diagnosed?
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.
What are the different degrees of hearing loss?
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)
What are the different types of hearing loss?
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.
What are the signs of hearing loss in children?
Hearing loss can occur at any time in life from factors such as genetics, ear infections, head trauma or certain medications. If you suspect the following symptoms or behaviors in your child, you may need to consult with an audiologist: -Failed newborn hearing screening -Delays in speech and language acquisition (i.e no babbling) -Frequent ear infections -No startling reaction to loud sounds -No response or turning to the source of loud sounds after six months of age -Difficulty following verbal directions -Short attention span Any symptom of hearing loss in children should be addressed right away so as not to hamper or delay speech, language and cognitive development as a whole.