Audiology and Hearing Loss
The ear is a very complex structure, and hearing problems may include tinnitus, noise-induced hearing and balance issues. There are three bones in your ear: the malleus, incus and stapes.
Audiology is the diagnosis and treatment of disorders related to your auditory and vestibular systems. If you have an auditory or vestibular condition, you’ll see an audiologist. Also, audiologists may perform hearing screening for babies and children to detect any issues early. Audiologists work in a range of settings, including clinics, hospitals and schools.
Here are some common conditions an audiologist may test for and treat:
Conductive hearing loss. This condition is caused by issues in the outer or middle ear. It could be due to ear infections, a buildup of earwax, or issues with the eardrum or middle ear bones.
Tinnitus. People experiencing a ringing or buzzing sound in the ears. Often, tinnitus occurs because of prolonged exposure to loud noises.
Auditory processing disorders (APD). Some patients have difficulty processing and interpreting what they hear.
Balance testing. The audiologist performs an assessment of your vestibular system to detect conditions related to balance or dizziness.
Sensorineural hearing loss. If your auditory nerve or inner ear is damaged, you may have this type of hearing loss. It’s typically due to medical conditions or exposure to noise over the years. It's typically part of a senior's hearing loss exam.
Getting a Hearing Assessment
An audiologist will use equipment to measure your hearing sensitivity across different frequencies. Other testing include evaluating your ability to hear speech at several volumes, and measuring the sounds your inner ear produces in response to stimuli.
Treating Hearing Loss
Depending on the type of hearing loss you have, your audiologist may recommend a hearing aid or other assistive listening device. Your audiologist can help you find and fit the right hearing aid or assistive listening device for your condition and lifestyle.
There are certain auditory exercises your audiologist may recommend. These focus on improving your listening and communication skills.
For some patients, ear surgery might be the best treatment. Patients might undergo ear surgery by an otolaryngologist or plastic surgeon. Here are some common types of ear surgery:
- Cochlear implant surgery for severe hearing loss
- Otoplasty to correct protruding ears
- Repairing a tympanic membrane perforation (called a tympanoplasty or myringoplasty)
- Ossicular chain reconstruction to recreate your ear bones with prostheses
If you’d like more information about audiology and hearing, talk to your physician, audiologist or otolaryngologist.