Audiologists are professionals specializing in researching, diagnosing and treating problems associated with the ears, particularly auditory problems and vestibular problems. The vestibular system of the ear is involved with balance while the auditory system determines how well you can hear.
Education for Audiologists
In the United States, audiologists have a doctoral degree, or PhD, in audiology and must pass rigorous testing before they are licensed to practice. Audiologists also serve several months to a year as an intern in order to complete the education they received in the classroom. They are trained to do a variety of complex and lengthy tests to determine the severity of hearing loss and any potential balance problems that may be related to the ear canal. Most audiologists are members of the American Board of Audiology.
While an audiologist can not do surgery or prescribe certain medications, he or she can do hearing tests on infants, children, adults and the elderly. Based on test results, the audiologist can determine whether there is hearing loss, how profound that loss is and whether the problem can be corrected by hearing aids or other means. In many cases, your audiologist can recommend the right type of hearing aid for your hearing loss. He or she can also recommend other devices such as amplified telephones that may make your life easier. If there is a medical problem to be treated, which happens in about 10 percent of hearing losses, the audiologist will refer you to an ear, nose and throat specialist.
When your hearing aid arrives, your audiologist will carefully adjust it to fit properly and give you the best combination of sound amplification and clarity. He or she will walk you through the proper care and use of your hearing aid and will be available to answer any questions you might have after you’ve gone home with your new hearing aids.
Many people are disturbed to learn they have substantial hearing loss. Fortunately, audiologists are also trained to counsel their patients and family members. They help them come to terms with their limitations and supporting them throughout the adjustment period. They can also explain the situation to family members and give them tools to help their loved one adjust to any hearing problems they may have.
Outside the Audiologist’s Office
Not all audiologists work at a hearing clinic or in a doctor’s office. Some focus on testing and do routine hearing tests on children at the grade school level or specialize in infant hearing loss. Others may travel to various job sites in order to evaluate the potential for hearing damage and recommend Hearing Safety Programs to job managers as a way to prevent future hearing damage to employees.
Research audiologists spend their days looking for ways to improve our current sound amplification devices from hearing aids to sound attenuation earmuffs for pilots. Although you may not see these researchers, they contribute a great deal to advancing the technologies that restore hearing to millions.
Audiologists are experts at explaining the details of hearing loss and how to use hearing aids. When you are at your audiology appointment, don’t forget to ask questions. A good audiologist will take the time to explain all procedures clearly and will give you the reassurance you need during any tests or procedures.