What is the difference between an Audiologist and an ENT?

Hearing Health, Lifestyle
February 23, 2024
Live Better Hearing + Balance
Ross Cushing

When faced with hearing loss or balance issues, knowing where to turn is the first step towards receiving proper treatment. The journey through hearing health care can seem daunting, with various professionals ready to assist. However, understanding the distinct roles and expertise of audiologists and ENTs (Ear, Nose, and Throat doctors) is crucial in seeking the right treatment and care. 

Both professionals offer distinct yet complementary expertise in managing hearing health and their collaboration is key to providing thorough care, encompassing everything from diagnosis to treatment and ongoing support. While audiologists often serve as the initial contact for those experiencing hearing and balance issues, ENTs are sought for medical interventions. 

In this guide, we'll explore the differences between an audiologist and an ENT, ensuring you make informed decisions about your hearing health.

What is an Audiologist?

Audiologists are professionals dedicated to the non-surgical treatment of hearing and balance disorders with the goal to enhance quality of life through personalized care. They are the go-to specialists for:

Education and Credentials for Audiologists

Audiologists usually have a Doctorate in Audiology (Au.D.), indicating a high level of education in hearing and balance disorders. Their curriculum spans anatomy, physiology, genetics, communication development, ethics, and pharmacology, preparing them for comprehensive diagnostic and therapeutic roles. 

When to book an appointment with an audiologist:

When Should an Audiologist Refer Patients to an ENT?

Audiologists are tasked with the initial evaluation and management of hearing and balance disorders, but certain cases necessitate referral to an ENT specialist. According to experts at Audiology Today, key indicators for referral include, but are not limited to symptoms of dizziness, tinnitus, sudden sensorineural hearing loss, or visible abnormalities in the ear structure. Guidelines from the FDA and AAO-HNS also highlight conditions such as otalgia, ear deformities, and rapid hearing loss progression as criteria for ENT consultation. Especially critical is the identification of patients potentially suffering from vestibular schwannomas or experiencing sudden sensorineural hearing loss, where timely medical intervention can significantly impact outcomes. This streamlined approach ensures that patients receive comprehensive care tailored to the specific needs of their hearing and balance health.

What is an ENT (Otolaryngologist)?

ENTs, or otolaryngologists, are medical doctors with specialized training in conditions affecting the ear, nose, throat, head, and neck. Their expertise is honed through years of residency, including surgical training and, often, further specialization. ENTs can address a broad array of health issues, including:

ENTs are equipped to tackle a broader range of medical conditions with both medical and surgical solutions. From chronic infections to structural issues and cancers, ENTs address the complex conditions that require their specialized medical knowledge. ENTs may perform surgeries and prescribe medications (audiologists cannot); however, they often work in conjunction with audiologists to provide comprehensive care. 

Education and credentials for ENTs

ENTs are medical doctors (MDs) who after completing medical school, undergo at least five years of additional training in otolaryngology. Their residency includes hands-on surgical training and in-depth study of the ear, nose, throat, head, and neck. Some ENTs further specialize in subfields such as pediatric otolaryngology or otology/neurotology (ears and balance).

When to consider seeing an ENT:

When to See an Audiologist vs. an ENT: Common Scenarios

Your personalized hearing health journey

If you need help figuring out your next steps, we are here to help you every step of the way. Contact Live Better Hearing + Balance at (888) 432-7505 and we'll connect you with trusted audiologists near you to ensure you receive the best possible care. We're here to help you navigate your path to better hearing and balance. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Chief Executive Officer
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Written by Ross Cushing

Ross Cushing, Au.D., is the Chief Executive Officer at Live Better Hearing + Balance. Dr. Cushing has been a clinical audiologist for nearly 20 years and chief leader of Live Better Hearing + Balance since 2007, where he believes that it is only through a combination of kindness and competency that we can achieve success with our practice and our patients.

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