As one of your five basic senses, hearing is one of the ways in which you gather and interpret stimuli to make sense of the world around you. Keeping all of your senses in working order is beneficial for being able to have an accurate assessment of your surroundings at all times. Hearing itself is so important that it has its own medical profession (audiology), its own medical doctors (audiologist) and month (National Audiology Awareness Month – October) dedicated to it. Let’s take a look at who studies hearing and what they can do for you.
What is an audiologist?
The Academy of Doctors of Audiology has a simple definition for this term: an audiologist is simply “a professional who diagnoses and treats hearing and balance problems.” While this doesn’t sound very complicated, the field of hearing and balance is actually quite broad and encompasses many disorders. Some are directly related to the ears, while others are other medical conditions that have an effect on hearing or balance.
What services does an audiologist provide?
In order to ascertain the right diagnosis, an audiologist uses a variety of diagnostic tools including:
What types of treatment can an audiologist prescribe?
Determining an individual’s hearing or balance problem and its cause is a great start, but an audiologist doesn’t stop there. He also works closely with the patient and their family to treat the problem, work to prevent further complications, and improve quality of life. Common hearing treatment options include:
• Custom earmolds
• Hearing protection
• Hearing aids
• Assistive listening devices
• Ear wax removal
• Tinnitus treatment
Why is treatment by an audiologist important?
Hearing is an important part of everyday life, no matter how old or young you are. For children, hearing is one way they learn about and interpret the world around them. Without normal hearing, other areas of a child’s development can be negatively affected, including speech and language. Early diagnosis and treatment of hearing impairments are critical for normal childhood development.
For adults, hearing is just as essential. It plays a role in socialization, work performance, and safety, among other things. Similarly, having good balance can make everyday life easier and safer. When hearing and balance issues are detected and treated as soon as possible, other problems can be prevented and individuals can enjoy a greater quality of life.
Where can I find an audiologist?
These hearing healthcare professionals can be found in just about every major city in the United States. If you’re not already working with an audiologist, talk to your primary care physician about who he recommends. Or, get a personal recommendation from family or friends. Often, it’s helpful to seek care from someone with whom others have had a good experience. You can also search online – be sure to check out a prospective provider’s reviews to get a feel for what others are saying about them.
When should I see a hearing professional?
Hearing testing can and should start at birth. Infant hearing screening is available before a baby even leaves the hospital, and is often instrumental in early detection of hearing impairments. Whether normal or impaired, hearing should continue to be monitored at regular intervals throughout childhood, the teenage years, and into adulthood. One of the easiest ways to discover developing hearing problems is by comparing hearing test results over time.
Any time that you suspect hearing or balance changes in yourself or a loved one, schedule an appointment with an audiologist as soon as possible. Some disorders can be completely cured while the effects of others can be minimized with early diagnosis and treatment.