Hello again! Today we are going to talk about audiology in general. Who are we? What do we do? When should you see us? What to expect when you meet with us? These are all questions that we’re going to answer today.
So first up, what is audiology? Audiology is “a branch of science that studies hearing, balance and related disorders”. An audiologist is a licensed hearing health care professional who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss and balance disorders in adults and children. Here at Andros Audiology, our audiologists perform comprehensive hearing evaluations, discuss results and give recommendations for next steps, help you decide which hearing aid is most appropriate for you, as well as teach you how to use your hearing aids to their fullest capability. We are there for any questions along the way. Our audiologists work closely with our ENTs and Physician Assistants to provide the best and most comprehensive care for you.
When should you see an audiologist? If you are noticing trouble hearing people, the TV, or other sounds, it may be time to have your hearing tested. Other signs that you should see an audiologist include ringing in your ears. This is called tinnitus (read a few of the posts below to learn more about tinnitus!). It is often described as ringing or buzzing in one or both ears. BUT tinnitus does not always sound like ringing! It could sound like chirping, water running, or even cicadas! Basically, any noise that you are hearing in your ears that isn’t coming from your environment could be tinnitus. So, if are experiencing unexplained noises in the ears you should see an audiologist. Tinnitus sometimes goes hand in hand with hearing loss (not always though!) or could be indicative of something else. Either way, it’s a sign that you should see an audiologist. Other signs that you should see an audiologist include a sensation of pressure or fullness in your ear. If your ear feels plugged/full your audiologist will be able to help point you in the right direction. Another sign to see an audiologist is if you are experiencing dizziness. Did you know your inner ear has a whole lot to do with your balance system? The ear is much more involved than you may think!
Now that you know when to come and see us, you may want to know what to expect at your first appointment. Typically, you would be scheduled for a comprehensive hearing exam first. At this appointment we will ask you some questions to get a better idea of what you are experiencing and areas that you may be noticing difficulty in. Next, we will look in your ears with our otoscope. This lets us see the inside of your ear canal and eardrum. When we look in your ears we are looking to make sure everything looks as it should. If we notice excessive ear wax that is blocking your ear we may refer you to have your ears cleaned before the test so we can get accurate results. A little bit of wax is completely normal! As long as we can see your eardrum we will be able to test your hearing. Once your outer ears pass our test we may do a quick test called tympanometry. With this test we will place a small piece in your ear to see how your ear drum is moving. You may feel a little bit of a pressure change during this test, but the good news is that this test is automatic – meaning you don’t have to do anything! Then comes the part of the test that most people are familiar with – the beeps. We will play a variety of low, mid and high pitch beeps and ask you to click a fancy button whenever you hear the beep. Next, we will take a break from those beeps and play some words for you and ask you to repeat the words to us. Some of those words get very quiet so listen carefully! Finally, we will put a different headpiece on you that sits behind your ear. This piece vibrates the bone behind your ear sending those beeping noises directly to your hearing nerve! We will play a few more of those beeps and you’ll get to use that button again to let us know when you hear them. And then you’re done! We may change things up a little, but we will always let you know what we are going to do!
We will gladly explain the results of your hearing test and what it all means to you as well as give a recommendation for any next steps. Those next steps will depend on the results of your hearing test. We may refer you to see an ENT physician for follow-up, recommend you return annually for hearing tests or recommend hearing aids. If you decide that you would like to try hearing aids, then good news, we can help with that! Our next step would be to schedule a hearing aid consultation where we would discuss all your options for hearing aids and help you choose the right ones for you. We will also teach you how to use the hearing aids and make sure that they are working properly for you! Once you have hearing aids you may also see us for routine hearing aid cleaning appointments and programming adjustments. We are here to help you every step of the way!
And finally, an answer to a bonus question! What can YOU do to help protect your hearing? Sometimes hearing loss is inevitable, however there are things that you can do to help reduce the risk of hearing loss. The most important thing that you can do is to protect your ears from loud noises. Try to avoid excessive loud noise if you can. If you can’t (we get it, life is noisy) then you can protect your hearing by wearing hearing protection. Hearing protection can come in the form of foam earplugs, earmuffs or even custom-made hearing protection specific to your individual ears. Common activities such as mowing the lawn, loud concerts, fireworks or hunting/target practice can potentially harm your hearing. If you have questions about protecting your hearing or want to know more about custom hearing protection you can always contact your neighborhood audiologist to learn more. We would love to chat with you!
Author Michaela Nikolai, AuD Michaela is a Doctor of Audiology at Andros ENT & Sleep center.