Wondering what is an audiologist, exactly? Audiology is the medical field that deals with hearing, hearing impairments, deafness, noise management and control, vestibular (balance) assessments, cochlear implants, and earwax build-up and management, and the management of any sound-related perception such as tinnitus, hyperacusis and misophonia. An audiologist is a healthcare practitioner that works in the field of audiology and possesses the relevant qualifications in Audiology (either an Honours, Master’s or Doctoral degree in Audiology).
An audiologist is trained and experienced in diagnosing hearing disorders and can identify problems in patients’ ears and auditory pathways. As healthcare professionals, who also have a passion for helping people, we apply our skills and knowledge to educate, treat and support patients with hearing loss, tinnitus, hyperacusis and balance disorders.
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We conduct various tests and procedures for patients suffering from hearing loss to assess their hearing impairment, to make an accurate diagnosis and to provide a suitable and effective hearing solution in the form of hearing aids and other assistive hearing devices. Audiology services are available to both children and adults as hearing loss can occur at any stage in one’s life.
Typically, patients can expect the following services when visiting an audiologist:
Nowadays, hearing aids can be bought over-the-counter or from a number of illegal, unregistered vendors, working from uncalibrated rooms with uncalibrated equipment and without any real knowledge of the auditory system. It is strongly advised to rather preferably seek the help of a registered hearing professional if a hearing impairment is suspected. Audiologists spend years learning about the human auditory and vestibular systems and therefore have the knowledge required to advise patients on their hearing health, as well as on how to fit and adjust hearing aids correctly.
Audiologists do not only work on the assessment and management of hearing loss, but also promote hearing health and hearing loss prevention. Besides hearing aids and assistive devices, many audiologists therefore also offer a range of hearing protection devices for those that may work in noisy environments.
Why audiology is
SUCH AN IMPORTANT MEDICAL FIELD
Hearing is one of our special senses. Our brains need to receive information about sound in order to make informed choices about our world. Hearing is one of the main ways in which we as humans are connected to one another. It allows us to communicate and therefore, not being able to hear can have a negative impact on the individual who suffers from hearing loss, as well as on those closest to him/her. Being unable to hear can cause an individual to become isolated, depressed and anxious. A hearing problem may be an indicator of a problem that is not in the ear, and therefore needs a diagnosis. Many people suffering from hearing loss resist seeking help.
Deafness and hearing loss are often seen as the ‘invisible disabilities’ and a lot of people are too embarrassed to seek help, or they do not want to wear hearing aids as there is a negative stigma attached to it. This may be because hearing aids from a long time ago used to be very visible to others. Interestingly, when we constantly ask for repetition, our hearing loss is still obvious to other people, and without addressing it, we change the flow of conversation, cause ourselves discomfort and embarrassment, and even jump to the wrong conclusions when we hear something incompletely and our brains try to fill in the missing pieces!
Modern hearing aids are not as obvious. Nowadays, we provide devices that are cosmetically attractive or completely invisible. Moreover, people are wearing all sorts of things on their ears, and so our society does not see an ear device as an unusual object. Thanks to technology, hearing devices can be connected wirelessly, directly to other devices such as smart phones and TV’s, making it simpler for people with a hearing loss to lead much more functional, high quality lives.
The stigma of “not hearing” seems to be linked to a perception of aging, even though many younger people have hearing loss. Hearing loss can happen to anyone and it can occur at any age – it affects babies, young adults and older people. Studies have indicated that more and more young people are affected nowadays, especially teenagers. Part of this is due to the incessant exposure to loud music and noise that young people are exposed to – this could be loud music via earphones, playing video games with earphones, watching TV too loudly, and other recreational and occupational pursuits. We encourage people to monitor the sound in their lives. If you are exposed to a lot of sound, we can provide you with hearing protection and a hearing conservation programme to ensure that you have hearing for many years to come.
Audiologists also assist patients suffering from Tinnitus, other abnormal sound perceptions, and a range of balancing disorders. Tinnitus may be from an underlying, curable condition, or, it may not be curable Your audiologist can help you to define the underlying cause, and provide you with a number of rehabilitation and management strategies (which may include a special programme on an ear-worn device or in a hearing aid) that may provide relief from the symptoms. There are many effective coping mechanisms.
The first step in getting the help you require for any problem that relates to the ear (auditory) or balance (vestibular) pathway, is to make an appointment with an audiologist near you. Your audiologist will conduct a variety of hearing or balance tests to assess your hearing and balance needs and will then guide you through the rest of the process should intervention with hearing aids, other devices or therapeutic rehabilitation, be necessary.