Are you Taking Good Care of Your Audio Health?
Did you know that about 14% of people ages 45 to 64 have some amount of hearing loss?* And after age 65, that rises to 30%. As you age, it’s important to stay on top of your hearing health and get your hearing tested regularly. And don’t just wait until you realize you’re having difficulty hearing others in a crowded room or on the television. Hearing loss happens gradually, so it’s important to see a doctor regularly.
Audiologists vs. Ear Nose Throat (ENT) doctors
Should you see an audiologist, or is an ENT doctor sufficient? What’s the difference?
A Doctor of Audiology diagnoses, rehabilitates and provides other services associated with hearing, balance, tinnitus management, etc. They can diagnose hearing loss and fit you with a hearing assistive device. This is who you should see if you’re having a hard time hearing high-pitched sounds, hearing people in crowds, experience constant ear ringing, or something similar.
An ENT doctor or otolaryngolist diagnoses and treats problems with the ear, nose, voice box, throat, head and neck. This is the specialist to visit if you’re dealing with bouts of dizziness, ear pain or trauma, or balance. It’s certainly possible that your hearing loss is the result of certain medications, etc. Children dealing with hearing loss from things like ear infections or allergies might visit an ENT, but that ENT doctor might refer them later to an audiologist.
If you’re concerned about changes in your hearing, your best bet is to start with an audiologist. If you’re unsure what’s wrong, you could start with an ENT doctor, who can identify the source of your hearing loss. That doctor might end up referring you to an audiologist for further testing.
Surgery vs. hearing aid treatment
Depending on the extent of the damage to your inner ear, the audiologist might suggest surgery or a hearing aid. If you’re having problems with the ear canal, eardrum, or middle ear, you’ll likely need surgery or other medical help. If your external ear is relatively normal, a hearing aid might help.
A quick overview of hearing aids
There are two main types of hearing aids: analog and digital.** These types of hearing aids have different designs and features depending on the severity of hearing loss and lifestyle.
Analog hearing aids tend to be less expensive and simple to use. They convert sound waves into electrical signals and make them louder.
Digital hearing aids are more expensive but tend to work better because they’re more powerful and sophisticated in the way they process and amplify sound. They convert sound waves into numerical codes, then amplify those codes. Most adjust automatically and the hearing aids themselves are smaller.
As for style of hearing aids, there are canal aids (smaller, fit inside the ear either partially or completely), in-the-ear hearing aids, and behind-the-ear aids.
If you’re having hearing trouble or simply want to stay on top of this, call your doctor for a referral.
*WebMD: Hearing Tests for Adults: What to Expect
**WebMD: Hearing Aid Basics