Posted on Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Difference Between an Audiologist and an ENT

female doctor tells patient difference between audiologist and ENT

Hearing is a complex sense with lots of different causes and treatments. Sometimes it’s difficult for patients to determine what type of hearing health professional can best handle their hearing problem. This educational blogpost explains the difference between an audiologist and an ENT and provides different examples to help you determine when it’s more appropriate to see one or the other.

Audiologist: A Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) or an Audiologist is educated and trained to identify and treat diminished hearing and provide hearing aids and other assistive listening devices. To put it simply, an audiologist is a hearing doctor that handles the non-medical side of hearing problems. Note: When a hearing loss might have a treatable physical cause it is best to see and ENT.

See an Audiologist When:
Excessive Earwax—Audiologist can remove earwax to ease problems with hearing.
Decrease in Hearing—Problems with hearing that have been ruled out as having an organic or physical cause. A comprehensive evaluation by a Doctor of Audiology can more to thoroughly examine the nuanced ranges of hearing loss.
Asking to Have Things Repeated-- Having to frequently ask people to repeat things can be embarrassing. This discomfort means that people can ignore this sign of hearing loss or try to cover it up.
Inability to Understand in Crowds-- Not being able to hear what people are saying in a crowded restaurant or room is typically a sign of hearing loss best treated with a hearing aid.
Inability to Hear Female or Child Voices--Females and children speak in a higher register, so one of the first signs of hearing loss is the inability to hear these higher pitched voices. If a patient consistently feels that women or children are mumbling should see an audiologist.
Tinnitus—A ringing or buzzing in the ears that can be high pitched, intermittent or constant is generally associated with hearing loss issues best handled by an audiologist.
Inability to Hear High-Pitched Sounds-- A phone ringing, a child's cry, the trill of a bird, are high-pitched sounds that can begin to fade as a person develops hearing loss.
Age Related Hearing Loss—Hearing loss that has slowly progressed over a lifetime is often best treated with a hearing aid and not surgical or medical intervention.

Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) or Otolaryngologist: An otolaryngologist or ENT is trained in the medical treatment and diagnoses of problems with the ear, nose, larynx (voice box), and throat as well as the head and neck. ENT training sometimes includes two years of general surgery, allowing these professionals to perform surgery on cancers and other serious conditions arising within the ear, nose, and throat. An ENT handles the medical side of hearing issues such as tumors, Meniere’s, and autoimmune diseases. When a hearing loss might have a treatable physical cause, like fused inner ear bones or perforated eardrum, it is best to see and ENT.

When to See an Otolaryngologist or ENT:
Autoimmune Problems—Patients known to have an autoimmune disease need to first be evaluated for their hearing loss by an ENT.
Ototoxicity—Patients whose hearing loss may be the result of medications. If the hearing loss is permanent then an audiologist will be referred.
Balance—Any balance issues related to movement of the head requires medical evaluation.
Otosclerosis (fused bones)—Hardening within the ear can be a sign of bone growth that is impeding or fusing the normal movement within the ear. This may be best handled through surgery.
Dizziness—Unexplained bouts of dizziness that may or may not be related to head movement.
Ear Pain—Any ear pain is a sign that a medical professional needs to be consulted.
Head/Ear Trauma—In order to ensure that trauma to the ear is not correctible through surgery or other means an ENT should be seen.
Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL)—Often those with SSHL cannot be aided by traditional medical intervention and hearing aids will be needed, but before this step, those with SSHL need to be evaluated medically to rule out the existence of a serious medical condition or the possibility of treatment with steroids.
Pediatric Hearing Problems—Children are more likely to experience medically treatable reasons for hearing loss—like ear infections, sinus, or allergy problems, and so should first be evaluated by an ENT before being referred to an audiologist.

If you'd like more help finding an audiologist or ENT in your area, click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

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