What Is An Audiologist?
Audiologists are healthcare professionals who evaluate, diagnose and treat hearing loss and other auditory conditions like tinnitus and balance disorders. Audiologists also provide valuable insight and products to help you prevent hearing loss, like protective custom earplugs. Audiologists are trained to work with all ages, from newborns to the elderly, however some do specialize in certain age groups or conditions. An audiologist holds an advanced degree in audiology. Currently, audiologists are required to obtain a doctoral degree and must be licensed by the state in which they practice. Additionally, audiologists must be licensed in the state they practice and are regulated by the Division of Consumer Affairs.
In addition to their education and state licensure, an audiologist may be awarded the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), otherwise known as the CCC-A. With additional training and expertise, the audiologist may receive the Honor of Fellow, which is awarded by the American Academy of Audiology (AAA).
What Types Of Tests And Treatments Do Audiologists Perform?
Common services and treatments provided by an audiologist include:
- Diagnostic hearing tests
- Audiologic evaluations
- Hearing aid fittings and consultations
- Hearing aid repairs and maintenance
- Aural rehabilitation
- Pediatric hearing loss detection and treatment
- Hearing loss prevention and protection programs
- Earmold and earplug fitting and consultation
- Custom musicians earplugs and monitors
- Tinnitus treatment programs
- Dizziness and balance testing and treatment
- Hearing rehabilitation and auditory training
- Cochlear implant candidacy evaluations and implant programming
How Do I Know If I Have Hearing Loss?
If you’re concerned you or a loved one may be experiencing hearing loss, you are not alone. Because hearing loss can come on gradually, it’s often the people around you who notice your hearing problems before you do. Typically, it takes people an average of seven years to seek treatment. If you exhibit the following symptoms, consider visiting an audiologist:
- You hear mumbling when people are speaking to you
- You have to ask people to repeat what they said
- You laugh at jokes even though you may not have heard the details
- You frequently complain that people mumble
- You need to ask others about the details of a meeting you just attended
- You play the TV or radio louder than your friends, spouse or relatives
- You cannot hear the doorbell or the telephone
- You find that looking at people when they speak to you makes it easier to understand
- You miss environmental sounds, such as birds chirping or leaves blowing
- You find yourself avoiding certain restaurants because they are too noisy
- You hear a ringing sound in your ears, especially when it is quiet.
What Causes Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss can be due to several factors such as the aging process, exposure to loud noise, medications, infections, head or ear trauma, congenital (birth) or genetic factors, diseases, as well as a number of other causes. It is estimated that nearly 20 percent of adults in the United States (48 million) report some degree of hearing loss. Hearing loss often occurs gradually throughout a lifetime.
How Is Hearing Loss Diagnosed?
If you exhibit symptoms of hearing loss, you should see an audiologist to have a formal hearing evaluation. This hearing test, or audiologic evaluation, is diagnostic and allows the audiologist to determine the type and degree of your hearing loss. There will also be a hearing test that evaluates your sensitivity, acuity and accuracy to speech understanding. Your audiologist may also test for speech understanding at different volume levels and conditions – like noise – to help the professional recommend the best hearing aids for your particular needs.
The hearing evaluation will also include a thorough case history and a visual inspection of the ear canal and eardrum. Additiovnal tests of middle ear function may also be performed depending on your symptoms. The results of the evaluation can be useful to a physician, if the audiologist believes your hearing loss may benefit from medical intervention.
Results of the hearing evaluation are plotted on a graph called an audiogram. The audiogram provides a visual view of your hearing test results across various pitches or frequencies, especially the ones necessary for understanding speech. The audiogram and results from your speech understanding tests are used to create a prescription by which hearing aids are programmed, if necessary.
What Are The Different Degrees Of Hearing Loss?
The results of your hearing test are plotted on a chart called an audiogram. Loudness is plotted from top to bottom. The top of the graph is very quiet and the bottom of the graph is very loud. Frequency, or pitch, from low to high, is plotted from left to right. Hearing level (HL) is measured in decibels (dB) and is described in general categories. The general hearing loss categories used by most hearing professionals are as follows:
- Normal hearing (0-25 dB HL)
- Mild hearing loss (26-40 dB HL)
- Moderate hearing loss (41-70dB HL)
- Severe hearing loss (71-90 dB HL)
- Profound hearing loss (greater than 91 dB HL)
What Are The Different Types Of Hearing Loss?
There are three main types of hearing loss and each can be caused by different factors and require different hearing aid technology and features to have the best listening experience. The three types of hearing loss include:
- Sensorineural hearing loss: When the problem is in the inner ear or a problem with the auditory nerve, a sensorineural hearing loss is the result. This commonly occurs from damage to the small hair cells, or nerve fibers, in the auditory system. Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss in adults and accounts for more than 90 percent of hearing loss in all hearing aid wearers. The most common causes of this hearing loss are age-related changes and noise exposure. Loss may also result from disturbance of inner ear circulation, increased inner ear fluid pressure or from disturbances of nerve transmission. There are many excellent options for the patient with sensorineural hearing loss.
- Conductive hearing loss: When there is a problem in the external or middle ear, a conductive hearing loss occurs. Conductive hearing loss develops when sound is not conducted efficiently through the ear canal, eardrum or tiny bones of the middle ear, resulting in a reduction of the loudness of sound that is heard. Conductive losses may result from earwax blocking the ear canal, fluid in the middle ear, middle ear infection, obstruction of the ear canal, perforation (hole) in the eardrum membrane or disease of any of the three middle ear bones. Individuals with conductive hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids, medical implants, medication or surgical options.
Mixed hearing loss: When there are problems in the middle and inner ear, a mixed hearing impairment is the result. Because mixed hearing loss involves both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss, treatment options from hearing aids to surgery depends on the nature of the impairment and the symptoms experienced.
What is 3D Ear Scanning?
3D ear scanning provides hearing care patients with a comfortable, non-invasive experience when taking an ear-mold impression. At Audiological Services of Iowa we use the Lantos 3D scanner. It is a cutting-edge piece of technology that allows us to capture the unique anatomy of your ears so that we can provide you with a personalized hearing solution for hearing aids, hearing protection, and many other devices as needed.
How does 3D Ear Scanning Work?
To begin the scan, the scanner membrane is gently placed in the ear. Once positioned correctly, the membrane will inflate to conform to your ear shape. Next, we will begin the scan. A small camera extends from the scanner and is moved around inside the inflated membrane to capture millions of data points that construct your 3D ear scan in real time. You can observe your scan in progress on the screen in front of you during your scan. Once the necessary data has been captured, we will gently remove the camera, the membrane will deflate, and we will move on to the next ear. The scan procedure can take up to 10 minutes, depending on the number of scans needed to properly capture the required data.
Why should I have my ears scanned?
- Your 3D scan will be stored on your patient file and can be used again in the future unless significant changes occur. One Lantos scan can be used to make endless custom-fit products that can provide you with comprehensive hearing enhancement and protection solutions.
- Having your ears scanned allows for a comfortable, safe experience to properly measure your ear for your custom-fit device.
- 3D ear scans ensure proper delivery of a prescribed custom algorithm based on your unique ear anatomy.
- With the Lantos 3D ear scanner, we eliminate the need for a traditional earmold impression, which will save time, avoid challenges, and prevent the discomfort of silicon material inside your ear canal.
What are the benefits of custom-fit hearing products?
- Superior Comfort – Products with a custom-fit conform to your unique ear anatomy and eliminate irritation.
- Enhanced Audio Quality – Custom-fit devices and earmolds efficiently maximize sound delivery of your devices such as hearing aids,headphones, in-ear monitors, etc.
- Improved Stability – Your custom-fit hearing products will stay secure in your ears and don’t require constant adjustment.
What Style Of Hearing Aid Do I Need?
There are many types of hearing aids today and the style or device depends on your lifestyle, budget and hearing loss needs. There are in-the-ear styles as well as behind-the-ear styles. In addition to selecting the right style of device, it’s also important to consider what features would be most beneficial to you. From directional microphones to waterproof options, there are numerous varieties to meet everyone’s personal needs. Today’s hearing aids are even equipped with Bluetooth connectivity to work with wireless technology like a cell phone or television.
Hearing aids are available in many different sizes and styles, thanks to advancements in digital technology and miniaturization of the internal components. Many of today’s hearing aids are considered sleek, compact and innovative – offering solutions to a wide range of hearing aid users. When selecting a style of hearing aid, the following should be considered:
- The type/degree of the hearing loss
- Power requirements
- Manual dexterity and visual abilities
- Cosmetics and aesthetics
- Anatomical and medical considerations
- Lifestyle requirements
What Are Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)?
People with all types and degrees of hearing loss can benefit from an assistive listening device (ALD). Since the microphone of a typical hearing aid is worn on or behind your ear, its ability to enhance the talker-to-background-noise ratio can be limited. However, ALDs are designed to increase the loudness of a desired sound, such as a radio, television or a public speaker, without increasing the background noise. This is because the microphone of the assistive listening device is placed close to the talker or device being used, while the microphone of the hearing aid is always close to the listener.
ALDs include alarm clocks, TV listening systems, telephone amplifying devices and auditorium-type assistive listening systems. Many newer devices are small, wireless and compatible with a person’s digital hearing aids. Alarms and other home ALDs may be small devices that are placed discreetly on tables, next to the TV or on the wall.
What Is The Difference Between An Audiologist and a Hearing Instrument Specialist (HIS)?
There are a number of different hearing healthcare professionals available, but each has different education and training requirements. An audiologist and a hearing instrument specialist (HIS) are two of the most common professionals when seeking treatment for hearing loss. To better understand which professional is best for you, it’s important to distinguish the differences between the two.
Audiologist: An audiologist is trained to diagnose, treat and monitor disorders of the hearing and balance system. They are trained in anatomy and physiology, amplification devices, cochlear implants, electrophysiology, acoustics, psychophysics and auditory rehabilitation. Doctors of Audiology complete, at a minimum, an undergraduate and doctoral level degree in audiology, as well as a supervised externship prior to state licensure and national certification. This usually requires eight years of post-secondary education (four years of college and four years of graduate school). The graduate school years focus on the medical, diagnostic and rehabilitative aspects of hearing loss, hearing aids and the vestibular system. Upon completion of training, audiologists must also pass a national standardized examination in order to be eligible for state licensure. Continuing education requirements must be met in order for an audiologist to maintain state licensure. For individuals with hearing loss, auditory issues or balance problems, an audiologist is the most qualified professional to assist with diagnosis and treatment.
Hearing instrument specialist (HIS): A hearing instrument specialist is licensed to perform audiometric testing to sell and fit hearing aids. In order to obtain a license, a HIS generally has to take a certification program in hearing aids, complete in-the-field training hours and pass an exam. Hearing instrument specialists are able to fit and repair hearing aids, however, they cannot diagnose a hearing loss.