Hearing and ear problems come in a variety and broad scope of conditions, from mild temporary hearing loss to full-blown, permanent hearing loss. So, as you perform your self-diagnosis of hearing problem, it may be difficult to determine what type of professional you should contact to correct the problem.
Here are your options:
Otolaryngologists. Not exactly a word that trips off the tongue so most of us know these MD specialists as ear, nose and throat doctors. It’s never a bad idea to see an ENT MD when you suspect hearing loss but in many cases, where disease and pain are part of the problem, an otolaryngologists will probably give you an inside-out exam, maybe perform some hearing tests and offer up a medical diagnosis of the hearing loss – everything from the natural aging process (nerve deafness) to traumatic hearing loss caused by one-time exposure to a strong, concussive sound – like an IED in a war zone.
However, these pros can also identify illness and lifestyle conditions that contribute to hearing loss. Even certain common medications, like aspirin, are tied to hearing loss. So, if you suspect illness, if you’ve been exposed to a traumatic sound burst or if you’ve experienced any sort of ear/hearing trauma in which your hearing does NOT return to normal, a visit with the local ENT doctor is always the recommend starting place.
Audiologist. But what if you’re experiencing gradual hearing loss, no pain, no headaches, earaches or indications of disease – just the natural hearing loss that comes naturally as we age. You may be able to forego the expense of an ENT evaluation if you suspect simple nerve deafness. And all you want to do is hear the TV better.
An audiologist is a highly trained professional, credentialed, licensed to practice and set up to provide a complete hearing screen right there in the office. With today’s testing equipment, the audiologist can precisely determine the range, frequency and extent of hearing loss.
Sometimes, there are simple solutions – improved, safe ear hygiene, for example. And there are a variety of medications that can handle ear infections, most often seen in infants, younger children and senior populations. So, these professionals provide the data of just what’s wrong with your hearing.
However, these are medical professionals who are not in the business of matching hearing aids with types of hearing loss. They’re professionals an hearing testing and analysis and though these pros may offer some suggestions that are ideal for your hearing needs, they may not be right on the money for your particular lifestyle, personality and budget.
Hearing Aid Professionals. These highly-trained, certified, up-to-date professionals not only keep up in the latest in hearing medicine and hearing loss detection, the also stay current on the latest in hearing aid technology, which runs the full spectrum from the basic hearing amp to something that answers your cell phone – literally. This is where these face-to-face professionals can fit you and your lifestyle and your budget with the best hearing instrument to suit your needs and preferences.
Many times, consumers don’t want to spend a lot of money on hearing aids “as long as I can hear.” Okay, these buyers are ideal candidates for low priced, programmable hearing devices – 5 channel units at a low cost.
Others seek a discreet profile – something invisible to co-workers in a competitive world. Completely in the canal, or CIC units, deliver complete invisibility.
Others wear hearing loss as a badge of honor. Lotta head-banging back in the day, and for these free spirits, hearing aids come in a rainbow of colors, shapes and sizes that lets the consumer make a fashion or even political statement. “I may need a hearing aid but I ain’t broken!” Be proud.
The hearing aid professional is your guide – the individual who will listen to what you want, what you need (water-proof, anyone?), what you want so spend and get to know what’s important o you in the hearing area.
This pro, who reads new product literature like we read the newspaper, know what’s new on the cutting edge of technology – and there’s always something new.
So, to sum up:
If you suspect disease, illness or mechanical breakdown of the hearing mechanism, see an ENT specialist.
If you suspect hearing loss – part of the natural aging process – always a goo idea to see an audiologist for a complete hearing evaluation – inside and out.
Finally, bring the results of your hearing test to a hearing aid professional, or have this expert administer hearing tests to determine the right device for you. These are the men and women who know hearing and technology.