The work of an audiologist
Have you noticed that it is harder for you now to understand what people say? Do you miss low sounds or need people to speak louder to you? Are you feeling dizzy or experiencing problems with balance without an identifiable cause? Do you feel discomfort inside your ear? If any of these question has an affirmative answer, then you might be in need of an audiologist.
What does an audiologist do? Audiologists are doctors who specialize in ear disorders and problems. They are experts in detecting hearing loss, ear damage and balance issues. They must not be mistaken for otolaryingologists, who are doctors specialized in treating ear, throat and nose conditions. An audiologist is knowledgeable in problems that affect all parts of your ear.
Few people know that much of our sense of balance is actually located inside our ear. There is a part of the inner ear, deep inside our skull at both sides, that detects the movement of our head and helps us be aware of our posture in the space. When this system is damaged or affected by an infection, it can cause dizziness and loss of balance.
Also, audiologists specialize in detecting, measuring, diagnosing and treating hearing loss at all ages, including the detection of deafness in babies. Audiology is an extensive field because patients with hearing loss are likely to need intervention and aid from other professionals, such as surgeons, psychologists, otolaryngologists and infectologists. This is due to the massive importance that hearing has in our organism as well as our communication with others and our integration in society. A good audiologist will be able to reccommend patients to any professional they need, as ell as help them connect and find what they need in order to get better.
Your clinical doctor will be able to perform a basic hearing test on you. As a matter of fact, if you attend a routine clinical examination you are likely to undergo some sort of eye and ear test. You might be familiar with the otoscope or audioscope, a hand instrument that your doctor introduces in your ear canal to get a better look of its insides. An otoscope helps detect inflammation, obstruction and discharges. Also, chances are your clinical doctor has performed the whispering speech test on you, which is a ver basic technique to detect hearing loss. The doctor stands at a varying distance from you and whispers words you have to repeat.
These tests are very basic, but they can act as a first line alert for some sort of hearing loss. An audiologist has the techniques and equipment needed to perform more accurate and detailed tests. Many of these are run on soundproof chambers where all sound is under the control of the audiologist, but others can be performed in an office or quiet room.
Different hearing tests will check various aspects of your hearing. Some are meant to get into more detail about your hearing spectrum, like tone specific hearing loss or different degrees of partial deafness. Also, the location of the problem can be detected, and the cause diagnosed. Some cases of hearing loss are due to obstruction or physical lesion of the ear, while others require surgery, sometimes a dose of antibiotics will be enough and even in some cases hearing loss can be a symptom of a neurological disorder. Click here to see a list of hearing tests.
Audiology, hearing loss and society
The role of an audiologist goes beyond the mere medical practice of detecting, diagnosing and treating health problems - or making the right derivation to another specialist. Hearing is very important for social integration, communication and work capabilities of people. Hearing loss may deeply affect a person's life. Babies born deaf or losing hearign abilities at a young age will be affected in their acquisition of language skills, which will have a strong impact in their education and their social interactions. It is the responsibility of an audiologist to detect these problems in time and provide a solution as good as possible in order to preserve that child's quality of life.
There are organizations led by audiologists who aim to educate and feed research in the field of hearing capabilities, balance disorders and other matters relevant to audiology. One good example of this is the widely known Audiology.org, which consists 100% in certified audiologists who work hard in order to educate new professionals and expand their knowledge on the field of audiology. In this site there are many working documents, research results and relevant news available for all members to read.