What’s the Role of Audiologist in Managing Hearing Loss?
We always take our hearing for granted. We don’t make an appointment with our doctor or audiologist until we experience hearing loss.
Audiologists are hearing specialists that ‘remind you’ to prioritize your ear health.
They identify, diagnose, manage and treat hearing problems, balance, tinnitus and any other auditory disorders. They help the patient improve their quality of life and maximize their participation in their society. They specialize in hearing aids, assistive listening devices and inner ear implants.
There are numerous roles that audiologists can undertake. We will discuss their abilities, knowledge, skills, and their duties and responsibilities.
What is audiology?
Audiology is the branch of medicine related to hearing and balance disorders. People working in this field are so called audiologists. They can choose a specialized area in their field or a specific population of patients such as pediatrics, geriatrics, balance, cochlear implants, hearing aids, tinnitus or auditory processing.
They have training in:
Anatomy and physiology
Their professional training compels them to have the knowledge, judgment and skills to provide the professional and personalized services needed to improve hearing and enhance hearing loss and balance disorders. They try to minimize the negative impacts of these disorders on the patient’s life such as the medical, psychological, physical, social, employment and educational ones.
They usually work with:
They cope with hearing loss and balance disorders for all ages from infants, teens, adults and old people. These include:
Ototoxicity - changes in hearing from drugs like aspirin, quinine, antibiotics and some cancer chemotherapy
Hidden Hearing Loss
Symptoms like Tinnitus, Vertigo, and Dizziness caused by inner ear inflammation, heart conditions, head injuries, motion, acoustic neuroma, ear infections and many others
We can find audiologists in:
Schools- with students suffering from hearing loss
Colleges and universities- working in research and training
Community health services
Hearing aid manufacturers
Neonatal and pediatric setup- helps to diagnose hearing impairment and possible speech delay after birth
They help with demonstrating the value and importance of audiology centers which provide information about the effectiveness of hearing loss treatment.
When should you seek an audiologist?
When your child or you show these signs, you should go to the audiologist:
Ask people to repeat their conversation and what they were saying
Turn up the volume on the TV or music more than other people
Have problem hearing people on the phone
Your child talks differently from their peers
Your child struggles with schoolwork
Trouble hearing high-pitched sounds such as doorbells, birds, alarms…
Avoid social situations
Getting tired at the end of the day from doing all the effort to hear others
The knowledge and skills that are necessary for clinical practice
Diagnose and manage hearing, tinnitus and balance.
Interpret hearing test results of objective and behavioral measures.
Counsel the patients about their hearing health and all the possible needs for treatments or management such as hearing aids and cochlear implants.
Provide fitting and programming to ensure the most suitable outcomes.
Evaluate children and adults that have central auditory processing disorders.
Screen speech-language affecting the communication of the patient.
Diagnosing Hearing Loss
When hearing loss is suspected, the audiologist usually performs diagnostic tests to verify if any audiological problem exists and to define the scope of the problem. This evaluation determines the type of hearing loss and its degree.
Knowing the degree of hearing loss is very important to the audiologist because some cases can be helped by hearing aids, while severe and profound cases should be surgically managed with cochlear implants.
There are several hearing tests that audiologists undergo to check your hearing. They include:
They conduct a physical examination of the ear, usually referred to as an otoscopy. They check if there are any physical problems in the ear canal or ear drum.
Pure-tone testing/ Audiometry
It helps the audiologist find out the quietest sounds you can hear at each different pitch. Patients usually wear headphones or earphones. The sensitivity will be tested at different frequencies and the results are shown on audiogram.
Bone conduction testing
This test shows if you have any fluid or wax blocking the outer ear or middle ear. It also indicates if you have hearing loss in the sensory cells of hearing.
This test involves listening to and repeating specific words. This helps the audiologist see if you understand speech.
Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)
Audiologists use this test in case they cannot perform the pure-tone test.
It shows them how the cochlea, the inner ear, and the brain pathways for hearing are working. It simply measures the brain’s response to sound.
It is mostly completed to children and infants who are not able to react to the normal behavioral hearing tests due to their age.
Counseling the patient
Hearing loss can be very frightening. The audiologist will be there throughout all the assessment and treatment with the patients and their family. They provide them with all the information needed concerning the diagnostic tests, the most suitable intervention and solutions, and the support systems present.
If the patient is a child, they provide the primary caregivers with all the knowledge and information needed about the case, the condition they are faced with and the social, cognitive and emotional necessities of the child.
All infants should have hearing screening at the age of one month of age.
Infants who don’t pass the initial hearing screening should have a proper medical evaluation to confirm that hearing loss exists at no later than three months of age.
They seek alternative services and solutions if there is a cost constraint or limited resources.
They provide information about how technology can help them facilitate communication with their environment.
Managing and treating hearing loss
They administer hearing tests and assessments to identify medical or emotional symptoms.
They usually perform otoscopic examination of the ear canal and ear drum.
They remove excessive cerumen and perform ear wax removal procedures.
They recommend the right hearing aid and help with the fitting and programming such as educational programming.
They provide suggestions for hearing assistive technology systems (HATS). These include large-scale systems such as infrared, FM and induction loops. These are available in public places such as concert halls and theaters. Additional devices such as microphones and telephone adapters can be purchased for personal use.
They provide audiologic rehabilitation, relearning skills they have lost:
Speech reading- use of lip and facial movements, posture and body language, gestures …
Communication management- making the patient feel that they are being listened to throughout all the stages of treatment and that they are able to communicate their hearing needs freely
Language development reading comprehension, focusing more on visual communication more than oral communication
Auditory skill development awareness of sounds, paying attention to them, responding to them in a certain way, and associating sounds with meaning
They perform assessment for tinnitus and if needed nonmedical management offer aural rehabilitation and balance therapy.
They provide counseling and education for patients and their families about the psychological adjustments of hearing loss.
These sessions are held either in private or group setting. Support groups provide patients with the comfort that they are not alone and that many others are going through the same thing as well. They learn from each other’s experiences and accept the fact that they can lead a happy and productive life.
Audiologists provide all the professional help to improve the patient’s involvement in their life and their activities. If you are suffering from hearing issues, visit an audiologist that can help you manage them and treat them. Maintaining your overall physical and mental health is important regardless of your age or occupation.