Discover insights about hearing loss, explore the crucial roles of our expert audiologists, and find valuable information on the use of hearing aids for a transformative hearing care journey.
Audiologists are healthcare professionals who evaluate, diagnose and treat hearing loss and other auditory conditions like tinnitus and balance disorders. Audiologists also provide valuable insight and products to help you prevent hearing loss, like protective custom earplugs. Audiologists are trained to work with all ages, from newborns to the elderly, however some do specialize in certain age groups or conditions. An audiologist holds an advanced degree in audiology. Currently, audiologists are required to obtain a doctoral degree and must be licensed by the state in which they practice. Additionally, audiologists must be licensed in the state they practice and are regulated by the Division of Consumer Affairs.
In addition to their education and state licensure, an audiologist may be awarded the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), otherwise known as the CCC-A. With additional training and expertise, the audiologist may receive the Honor of Fellow, which is awarded by the American Academy of Audiology (AAA).
Audiologists perform various tests and treatments related to hearing and balance disorders. They conduct hearing evaluations to assess the extent and nature of any hearing loss, and they also perform balance assessments to diagnose issues related to dizziness and vertigo. Additionally, audiologists provide treatments such as hearing aid fittings, cochlear implant programming, and auditory rehabilitation to help individuals manage their hearing and balance problems effectively. They may also offer counseling and education to support patients and their families in coping with these conditions.
You may have hearing loss if you experience difficulty following conversations, frequently ask others to repeat themselves, have trouble hearing in noisy environments, or if you find yourself turning up the volume on the TV or radio. Additionally, if you often feel that others are mumbling or if you notice ringing or buzzing in your ears, it could be indicative of hearing loss. If you have concerns about your hearing, it's advisable to consult an audiologist for a comprehensive evaluation.
Hearing loss can be due to several factors such as the aging process, exposure to loud noise, medications, infections, head or ear trauma, congenital (birth) or genetic factors, diseases, as well as a number of other causes. It is estimated that nearly 20 percent of adults in the United States (48 million) report some degree of hearing loss. Hearing loss often occurs gradually throughout a lifetime.
Hearing loss is diagnosed through a series of tests performed by an audiologist. These tests typically include a physical examination of the ears, a pure-tone audiometry test to assess hearing sensitivity, a speech audiometry test to evaluate speech understanding, and middle ear testing to assess the function of the ear drum and middle ear bones. In some cases, additional tests such as otoacoustic emissions (OAE) or auditory brainstem response (ABR) may be conducted to further evaluate the extent and nature of the hearing loss. Following these tests, the audiologist can determine the type, degree, and cause of the hearing loss, which then informs the appropriate course of treatment.
Hearing loss is typically categorized into four main degrees based on the severity of the impairment: mild, moderate, severe, and profound. Mild hearing loss may lead to difficulty following conversations in noisy environments, while moderate loss can make it challenging to understand speech without amplification. Severe hearing loss can cause significant difficulty in understanding speech, and profound hearing loss may result in an inability to detect most sounds, including very loud ones. The degree of hearing loss determines the appropriate interventions, such as hearing aids or cochlear implants, to help manage the impairment.
There are three primary types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed. Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves are not conducted effectively through the outer or middle ear, often due to blockages or structural issues. Sensorineural hearing loss results from damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve and can be caused by aging, noise exposure, or certain illnesses. Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Identifying the type of hearing loss is crucial in determining the most suitable treatment options.
Signs of hearing loss in children include delayed speech and language development, difficulty following instructions, frequently asking for repetition, speaking loudly, showing limited attention to sounds, and displaying issues with academic performance. Additionally, if a child frequently watches television at a high volume or has recurrent ear infections, it may indicate potential hearing difficulties. If parents or caregivers notice any of these signs, it's important to have the child's hearing evaluated by a pediatric audiologist to address any potential concerns.
The style of hearing aid you need depends on factors such as the degree and nature of your hearing loss, your lifestyle, and personal preferences. Common styles include behind-the-ear (BTE), in-the-ear (ITE), completely-in-canal (CIC), and receiver-in-canal (RIC) devices, each offering different benefits in terms of comfort, visibility, and features. Consulting with an audiologist can help determine the most suitable style and technology level to address your specific hearing needs and preferences.
Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) are specialized devices designed to help individuals with hearing loss communicate more effectively in specific situations. These devices can include amplified telephones, personal amplifiers, FM systems, and loop systems, among others. ALDs work by reducing background noise, improving the clarity of speech, and delivering sound directly to the individual, thus enhancing their ability to hear and understand conversations, television, or other audio sources. ALDs can be particularly beneficial in settings such as classrooms, theaters, and one-on-one conversations.
Tinnitus is the perception of ringing, buzzing, hissing, or other sounds in the ears or head when no external sound is present. It is often described as a phantom noise that can be intermittent or constant and may vary in intensity.
Tinnitus can be caused by various factors, including exposure to loud noise, age-related hearing loss, earwax blockages, and certain medical conditions. While tinnitus is not a condition itself but a symptom of an underlying issue, it can significantly impact a person's quality of life, and management strategies such as sound therapy and counseling can help alleviate its effects.
Tinnitus can be managed through various approaches, including sound therapy, counseling, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help individuals cope with the condition. Additionally, hearing aids, masking devices, and other sound-masking techniques can help mitigate the perception of tinnitus. It's important for individuals experiencing tinnitus to consult with healthcare professionals who can tailor treatment plans to their specific needs, as the effectiveness of treatments can vary from person to person.
An audiologist is a healthcare professional with a doctoral degree in audiology who is trained to diagnose, treat, and manage hearing and balance disorders. They are qualified to provide a wide range of services, including hearing evaluations, hearing aid fittings, and rehabilitation. On the other hand, a hearing instrument specialist (HIS) is licensed to conduct hearing tests and dispense hearing aids. While both professionals play essential roles in addressing hearing-related issues, audiologists have a broader scope of practice and can provide a more comprehensive range of services related to hearing health and rehabilitation.