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You may have heard of an audiologist, but you may be wondering: what does an audiologist do, and how can they help me? We’ve got you covered.

What are audiologists trained to do?

Audiologists are hearing professionals who diagnose, treat and manage hearing problems for all ages. In order to be considered an audiologist, the audiologist will have received a doctorate degree in audiology or a master’s degree from an audiology graduate program. Audiologists conduct hearing exams, and they fit, adjust, and maintain .

Audiologists are also qualified to treat balance disorders and tinnitus, and they can provide hearing and speech rehabilitation programs.
 

Where do audiologists work?

Audiologists can work in a variety of settings including private , educational facilities, government agencies, hospitals, and in the medical device industry. As a part of their daily work, audiologists work with all age ranges, counsel patients on hearing care solutions, use technology to evaluate patients’ hearing needs, and serve as supervisors and mentors later on in their career.

What can an audiologist do for you? 

If you are searching for an expert’s advice on any hearing or balance issues, an audiologist would be the best person to seek out for advice. The audiologist can then provide advice regarding , (ringing in the ears), balance issues, wax build up and communication. Audiologists will typically conduct hearing tests and advise on hearing loss solutions (if applicable). If the audiologist feels that you may have a medical issue (like a bacterial infection), they will typically refer you to an ENT doctor who can assess the condition and the potential treatment (which may include a small procedure, medicine, or even surgery). If your audiologist decides that a hearing aid would be a good solution for you, the audiologist will discuss which hearing aids would be good options for your level of hearing loss. Your lifestyle and preferences will also be discussed so that you find the optimal solution for you. The audiologist can also provide further hearing protection advice such as how to protect yourself from noise-induced hearing loss (which can be caused by loud concerts, lawnmowers, and fireworks, for example). Your audiologist can also educate you about the benefits of using earplugs in loud environments and how to equalize pressure in the ear during diving or traveling in an airplane.

How an audiologist tests your hearing

At a appointment, your audiologist will first discuss your hearing concerns with you. They will then conduct a brief physical exam of your ear to check for any earwax blockage or potential signs of bacterial infections. The audiologist will then conduct a series of tests which include tone tests and speech and recognition tests. Once your tests are complete, the audiologist will provide counselling on your results and let you know whether you have a hearing loss, and if so, which solutions may be best for you. The results of your test will be plotted on an audiogram which is a graph providing a visual illustration of your hearing loss.  

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How an audiologist recommends the best hearing aids for you

Hearing aids come in many different styles, and your audiologist will help you find the best hearing aid for you. Hearing aids are typically broken down into two broad categories: in-the-ear hearing aids and behind-the-ear hearing aids. Both categories have their own benefits.

After discussing your health history and conducting a series of tests, your audiologist will have a discussion with you where they reveal your hearing test results and whether you have no hearing loss, mild hearing loss, moderate hearing loss, or severe/profound hearing loss. Based on your level of hearing loss, the audiologist will then recommend hearing aid solutions based on your hearing loss level, preferences, and lifestyle.

 

An audiologist can help you find in-the-ear hearing aids

In-the-ear hearing aids

In-the-ear style hearing aids fit either entirely or partially in your ear canal. 

  • Invisible in the Canal (IIC): The IIC style hearing aids are the smallest hearing aids; they sit inside the ear canal. 

  • Completely in the Canal (CIC): The CIC style hearing aids are discreet like the IIC style, though they are not as hidden as the IIC style. 

  • In the Canal (ITC): While ITC hearing aid styles are a bit larger and therefore more visible than the IIC and CIC styles, they feature more advanced technology (such as Bluetooth) and larger batteries. 

  • Half shell in-the-ear (ITE HS): The half shell in-the-ear hearing aid sits visibly in the ear (as opposed to just in the ear canal). 

  • Full shell in-the-ear (ITE FS): The full shell in-the-ear hearing aid is similar to the half shell in-the-ear hearing aid, but this style is slightly larger.


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An audiologist can help you find behind-the-ear hearing aids

Behind-the-ear hearing aids

Behind-the-ear style hearing aids are made of two pieces. The first piece is an “earpiece” which sits in your ear canal and sends sounds into your ear. The second piece is a small unit which includes an amplifier, small computer, and a battery which sits behind your ear. 

  • Receiver in the ear (also known as “Rite” hearing aids): The receiver in the canal (or receiver in the ear) is the smallest and therefore most discreet of the behind-the-ear hearing aids. 

  • Behind-the-ear hearing aids: These hearing aids are robust, fully featured hearing aids with connectivity and telecoil features for a rich hearing experience in conversations, in device connectivity, and in public places. 

  • Open fit hearing aids: Open fit hearing aids are similar to receiver-in-the-ear hearing aids; they sit behind the ear and include a thin, almost invisible wire that connects to the speaker. These types of hearing aids keep the ear canal open, so that sound enters the ear more naturally. 


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Types of hearing experts

What is the difference between an audiologist, a hearing instrument specialist, and an ENT?

In general terms, audiologists are hearing doctors which specialize particularly in hearing loss and are trained to conduct hearing exams. Audiologists have extensive knowledge of the human auditory and vestibular systems, and they are trained in sound reproduction. Hearing instrument specialists must pass a written exam to receive a license to practice in the region where they practice. They are trained to interpret hearing tests, program hearing devices, and advise on hearing care solutions. In contrast to an audiologist, these specialists do not require a master’s or doctorate degree to practice. ENT (ear, nose, & throat) doctors (or otolaryngologists) are ear doctors which are medical doctors who have a doctorate degree in medicine. They are trained to perform ear surgery and handle more profound hearing loss conditions. They can also treat ear infections and ear trauma.

Conclusion
If you are searching for an expert’s advice on any hearing or balance issues, an audiologist is a good starting point for seeking out advice. For those with mild to severe hearing loss, an audiologist will be able to provide you with a hearing solution which best suits your personal needs.