Audiologists have the education, equipment, and knowledge to understand how the ear works. They can offer solutions to issues from earwax buildup (trying to clean your ears with Q-tips can cause damage) to tinnitus management.
They can also evaluate and manage hearing loss and balance problems. There are four reasons you should see an audiologist:
1. You’re experiencing hearing loss
Hearing loss can be difficult to recognize, especially when it happens gradually over time. If you’ve noticed that you can’t hear conversations in noisy places, find yourself turning the TV up a lot, or struggle to understand your friends and family on the phone, then it might be time for a hearing test.
Audiologists are specialized healthcare professionals who evaluate, diagnose, and treat hearing and balance disorders. They help people of all ages overcome the difficulties of living with hearing or balance problems that can affect their quality of life.
They are trained to assess vestibular and inner ear disorders caused by pathologies that occur within the central and peripheral parts of the ear, such as Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) or other conditions associated with the eardrum and middle ear, such as tinnitus, and they can provide a full range of therapeutic treatment options. Audiologists are also experts in the management of tinnitus and hearing protection, and they can advise you on the best products to suit your needs.
If you’re worried about your hearing, a GP can refer you to an audiologist who can further test your ears. They’ll look at how you perceive sounds, such as the pitches of different tones and what sound levels are comfortable for you. They’ll also use a tuning fork to see how your ears respond to sound and may recommend a range of treatments, such as hearing aids.
It’s worth noting that an audiologist isn’t the same as an ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor). While an audiologist has a degree in audiology and specializes in treating the ear, an ENT will have attended medical school and can also deal with other medical conditions affecting the ears, such as otosclerosis (fused bones), tumors, or ear infections. They’ll be able to prescribe medication and may even recommend surgery. If this is the case, your audiologist will be happy to refer you back to your ENT specialist.
2. You’re experiencing tinnitus
If you’re experiencing a ringing in your ears that doesn’t seem to be going away, an audiologist may be able to help. They’ll first administer a questionnaire to obtain more information on your symptoms and how you feel about them. Afterward, they’ll physically examine your ears and use a painless tool to remove any excess earwax.
They’ll then perform various hearing tests to check your overall level of hearing. They’ll play a range of tones and spoken words in your ear through headphones and ask you to raise your hand or repeat after each sound. This will give them a general idea of how your ear works and whether you’re suffering from a lack of high or low frequencies. They’ll also test for tinnitus caused by underlying health issues like a jaw disorder (TMJ) or a heart condition like a vascular problem known as atherosclerosis.
Depending on the cause of your tinnitus, they might recommend a noninvasive treatment like cognitive behavior therapy or hypnosis. They can also refer you for medical attention if they think the cause of your tinnitus could be more serious, such as a tumor or an infection in the eardrum.
Some tinnitus is subjective, which means only you can hear it. Other types of tinnitus, however, are pulsatile and can be heard by your clinician with a stethoscope. These are often associated with a blood flow issue that causes turbulent blood flow in the arteries and are more common in older people.
In some cases, tinnitus can be caused by external factors that affect how you perceive and respond to noises, such as stress, diet, exercise, and sleep. Your audiologist can recommend lifestyle changes that will reduce tinnitus’s impact, such as getting more sleep and avoiding noisy environments. They’ll also advise you on alleviating your tinnitus, such as using sound therapy or relaxation techniques. They might even recommend medication to treat any underlying health issues or prevent further damage. If you’re in danger of developing tinnitus, you should immediately see an audiologist.
3. You’re experiencing vertigo
The inner ear plays an important role in helping you feel balanced, and if you are experiencing dizziness or vertigo, it is important to see an audiologist. Vertigo symptoms can be caused by a variety of things, such as BPPV, Meniere’s disease, labyrinthitis, and vestibular neuritis. In some cases, these issues can also be a symptom of a neurological problem, such as migraines or stroke.
An audiologist can perform a series of tests to determine the cause of your balance and dizziness problems. These tests will usually focus on your inner ear and may include videonystagmography, which measures the speed at which your eyes move in response to rapid changes in head position, or the saccade test, which evaluates eye movements while you follow a target with your eyes. The audiologist will use the results of these tests to recommend a treatment plan.
Your audiologist will likely talk with you about your symptoms and when they started and will ask you if certain activities or positions make them better or worse. They will also want to know if you have had a history of concussions or other injuries that might affect your inner ear or brain. They will also ask you if you have noticed any other symptoms, such as hearing loss or ringing in the ears.
In some cases, your audiologist will recommend a program called vestibular rehabilitation. This series of exercises can help reduce your dizziness and imbalance. It is often successful for people whose vertigo is caused by an inner ear problem such as labyrinthitis or vestibular neuritis.
In some cases, your audiologist may also prescribe medication for vertigo. This is often the case with conditions like BPPV, Meniere’s disease, and labyrinthitis, but it can also be used to treat vestibular migraine or other balance disorders related to neurological problems. These medications can be antihistamines, antinausea drugs or benzodiazepines, such as Valium (diazepam). Some vertigo conditions can also be treated by lifestyle modifications and avoiding triggers. For example, avoiding alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and excess stress can help prevent or reduce the severity of some vertigo attacks.
4. You’re experiencing excessive earwax
While it may be a bit gross, earwax is actually very useful. Earwax protects your ears by absorbing water, fungus, dirt, and debris that could damage the ear canal and eardrum. It’s also self-cleaning and can moisturize the ear canal. Earwax must be allowed to do its job. Try not to try to clean it, as it will just cause more problems than it’s worth. However, if you do experience an excessive buildup of earwax, a routine visit to your audiologist can help remedy it safely.
If your earwax is causing you discomfort, it’s likely that it’s becoming impacted, which can lead to symptoms like itchiness, pain, a feeling of blockage in the ear, or even drainage from the ear. Trying to remove it with cotton swabs or other objects can only cause the earwax to become more impacted and push it deeper into your ear canal. If you’re experiencing earwax impaction, it’s best to see an audiologist, as they can safely remove the earwax using a variety of tools.
An audiologist is a medical professional who is trained to diagnose hearing loss, balance disorders, tinnitus, and more. They will use a combination of tests, including visual reinforcement audiometry and auditory brainstem responses, to come up with a diagnosis. They can perform these tests at their own offices or in collaboration with otolaryngologists (ENTs), primary care doctors, and speech-language pathologists.
An audiologist can provide a wide range of services, from fitting hearing aids to treating balance disorders. They are trained to identify the underlying issues that cause these conditions and prescribe the right treatments to restore your health and wellness. For these reasons, it’s always a good idea to visit an audiologist on a regular basis – especially if you have one of the four most common reasons for seeing a specialist. So, if you’re suffering from one of these conditions or are looking to improve your hearing, visit an audiologist today. They’ll be happy to help!