Suppose you’ve ever had concerns about your hearing or ear health, needed hearing aids, or been worried about tinnitus, ringing in the ears, or even vertigo and dizziness. In that case, an audiologist is the healthcare professional who can help by providing you with an accurate diagnosis and an effective treatment plan.
The word audiologist is derived from the Latin audire, meaning to hear. As such, audiologists are the frontline leaders of primary ear and hearing care. Audiologists assess, diagnose, treat and manage disorders and diseases of the ears and communication impairments. Not only this, but it can surprise many that audiologists also specialise in supporting those with vertigo or balance issues, as our perception of balance is largely influenced by the fluid within our ears. Audiologists work with patients to protect and improve their hearing and overall quality of life, enhancing their ability to talk to the ones they love and participate safely in the activities they enjoy.
So what qualifications does an audiologist have, what exactly does an audiologist do, and when should you see an audiologist to examine your hearing and ear health? Today we’re explaining exactly why a qualified audiologist is essential to maintaining your ear health and how our friendly team at Kevin Paisley can help you get started.
What Qualifications Does An Audiologist Have?
To become an accredited audiologist in Australia, a person needs to:
- Attain a relevant bachelor’s degree
- Followed by a two-year master’s degree in Clinical Audiology
- Finally, complete a one-year clinical internship under the supervision of an experienced audiologist.
After this, each audiologist in Australia must continue to participate in professional learning and development in the latest medical research to renew their accreditation and ensure they are providing their patients with the best possible care.
How Does An Audiologist Help You?
An audiologist’s job consists of a range of tasks to support your overall ear health, which include:
• Providing hearing tests and comprehensive ear exams using a range of techniques and technologies
• Interpreting test results to identify the root causes of hearing, ear or balance concerns, which may include:
– Exposure to excessive noise
– An ear infection
– Glue ear (a condition that develops when the fluid inside the ear becomes thick, like glue)
– A perforated eardrum
– Trapped ear wax
Or, in rare cases:
• An acoustic neuroma (a non-cancerous tumour that grows on the nerve connecting the brain to the ear)
– Osteosclerosis (a condition that affects the bone structure behind the eardrum)
– Certain medications, such as chemotherapy or antibiotics, can even trigger tinnitus
• Improving hearing and tinnitus by recommending, prescribing and fitting a range of different hearing aids, ear plugs, and other assistive devices
• Carrying out follow-up consultations to check on how each patient is finding their new hearing aid and adjusting the volume of the background noise if necessary to improve the perception of speech
• Detecting and monitoring how other health conditions may be contributing to certain ear conditions, for example, neural disorders such as Meniere’s disease
• Diagnosing, treating and managing several ear concerns, including hearing loss, dizziness, vertigo and tinnitus
• Provide hearing loss prevention advice to at-risk people, including musicians, builders, pilots, childcare workers, and members of the armed forces
More than this, your audiologists support any changes and help ensure you get the best care at every step of your ear health journey – including the right referrals if an ear exam detects something unexpected.
When Should I See An Audiologist?
Even if you have no ear diseases, noticeable hearing difficulties or concerning symptoms, we recommend booking comprehensive ear examinations with one of our friendly audiologists every year. For many people, changes to their hearing or symptoms of the disease occur so slowly over time that it’s not immediately noticeable – and you don’t realise that you need audiology care or that your hearing isn’t as good as it could be used to be.
Many ear diseases have few or no early symptoms and can develop at any age. This is why we recommend having regular ear health checks with a team of experienced audiologists, who use their comprehensive knowledge paired with digital tools to help track subtle changes in your ears over time and pick up on any concerns as soon as they arise, so you can start your treatment and management plan as soon as possible.
If you’re already experiencing any disturbances or changes in your hearing or ears, an appointment should be made promptly, especially if you notice:
• Ear pain
• Sudden hearing loss or hearing changes
• Discharge from the ear
We also recommend booking frequent appointments with an audiologist who can test your hearing and monitor the health of your ears over time for those in certain at-risk groups, including:
• Hearing aid users
• Patients over 60 years old who are more likely to have presbycusis or age-related hearing loss
• Patients with a family history of ear disease
• Workers in occupations that put their ears at risk of damage due to excessive levels of noise
• Patients with frequent ear infections
• Patients with previous ear surgery or injury
What To Expect At Your Audiologist Appointment
In a comprehensive ear exam such as those provided at Kevin Paisley, your audiologist uses a gentle approach combined with innovative medical technology to go beyond simply assessing your hearing and help to identify diseases and conditions as early as possible. Your comprehensive exam may include:
• Consultation: Going through your personal and family health history, detailing when your symptoms began, medications you’re taking, work and environmental factors, and more
• Ear Examination: Next, they will use an illuminated instrument called an otoscope to look inside their ears. We will search for any problems in the ear canal or with the eardrum that may affect your hearing. Common problems in the ear canal include a build-up of wax, damage to the eardrum, an infection or inflammation, and many more.
• Audiogram: An audiogram takes place in a quiet, sound-treated room or booth to ensure no outside noise interferes with your testing to ensure accurate results. You’ll put on a pair of headphones and undergo a ‘pure tone’ test. This is where a small machine called an audiometer beeps at different volumes and frequencies, and you’ll be asked to press a button or raise your hand when you can hear each sound. Wearing earphones lets us measure the hearing of one ear at a time.
• Bone Conduction Test: A bone conduction test is similar to a pure-tone test. You will wear a small device called an oscillator on your Mastoid bone, located behind your ear. The oscillator gently vibrates and sends sound directly into the cochlea in your inner ear. You will be asked once again to indicate each time you hear a beep, and your hearing care professional will record your results.
• Tympanogram: A tympanogram changes the pressure within your middle ear. A small probe with a soft rubber tip may be placed in your ear – the probe acts as a soft plug sealing your ear canal and creates pressure changes to observe how well your eardrum moves.
• Speech Test: A speech test occasionally measures how well you hear and understand ordinary conversation. It’s similar to a pure tone test, except you’ll listen to recorded words spoken at different volumes and then be asked to repeat what you hear.
After your exam, our audiologists will chart the results of your assessments for each ear on an audiogram to assess the degree of your hearing loss and which part of your ear is affected. We will discuss your results with you, provide tailored treatment options to improve and protect your hearing and overall ear health and help give you the freedom to do what you love.
At Kevin Paisley Hearing, our friendly audiologists offer targeted care for various conditions. Every treatment plan is designed uniquely for your needs and preferences. To help optimise your quality of life, our audiologist can make the appropriate referrals for more complex treatment if needed.
Don’t delay treatment. Get your ears checked today. To book your comprehensive ear exam with one of our experienced team members, contact one of your local clinics here.