As an experienced audiologist and owner of the Kensington Hearing Clinic, I have spent over 20 years caring for patients with hearing loss and other auditory issues. In my career, I have performed thousands of hearing evaluations, fit numerous hearing aids, and provided ongoing support to help patients adjust to amplified sound. Through my articles, I hope to educate patients on key aspects of audiology and empower them to address their hearing health.

The Audiology Profession

Audiology is a specialized healthcare field focused on the assessment, diagnosis, and management of hearing loss and auditory disorders. Audiologists possess a clinical doctoral degree and must be licensed by their state to practice.

The scope of audiology encompasses both pediatric and adult populations. Audiologists work with patients across the lifespan, from newborns with congenital hearing loss to aging adults grappling with presbycusis. Our expansive skill set allows us to address mild hearing difficulties, significant sound processing problems, balance disorders, tinnitus, and much more.

The Hearing Test Process

A core responsibility of audiologists is performing hearing evaluations using various audiometric techniques. Assessments are conducted in a soundproof booth using specialized equipment called an audiometer.

Testing provides important information about the type, degree, and configuration of hearing loss. Results give insight into which speech sounds patients can detect as well as functional difficulties they may experience communicating. Audiograms graph hearing threshold levels across pitches, comparing patient responses to normalized values.

Evaluation also includes otoscopy to visualize the ear canal and eardrum. This inspects for obstruction, infection, or structural anomalies that could undermine hearing or necessitate medical referral. Audiologists also assess word recognition ability.

Hearing tests are an empirically rigorous process providing comprehensive data. However, listening difficulties manifest uniquely for each patient in their daily environments. So personalized discussion ensures evaluation translates into practical solutions.

Hearing Aids and Other Assistive Devices

For patients with significant hearing loss impacting communication, audiologists may recommend hearing aids or alternative assistive devices. Hearing aids serve as miniature amplifiers powered by advanced digital processing technology.

Before fitting hearing aids, audiologists consider amplification goals, lifestyle needs, dexterity, ear anatomy, hearing aid styles, and patient priorities. Hearing aids require customized programming to map amplification to an individual’s hearing loss configuration. Frequent fine-tuning helps patients transition into consistent aided use.

Beyond hearing aids, audiologists can provide other hearing assistive equipment as needed. Some options include:

  • Alerting devices that use visual, tactile, or wireless signals
  • Amplified phones to boost caller volume
  • Television listening systems to transmit sound directly to hearing aid microphones
  • Captioned telephones allowing users to read captions of phone conversations

Device selection depends on the demands of the auditory environments and personal tech capabilities of each patient.

Auditory Habilitation and Counseling

Simply wearing hearing devices does not spontaneously restore hearing ability. Listening is a learned skill requiring active practice – especially for those with newly identified hearing loss. Through auditory rehabilitation, audiologists coach patients as they adjust to amplified sound.

We educate patients on managing communication breakdowns, advocating for optimal listening environments, and troubleshooting hearing aid issues. For children with hearing loss, early intervention is crucial to foster age-appropriate speech, language, and learning.

Audiologists also provide psychosocial counseling regarding realistic expectations, self-advocacy, and coping strategies. Hearing loss can profoundly impact work performance, relationships, safety, emotional health, and quality of life. Patients deserve resources and support.

Tinnitus Management

Many audiology patients present with troubling tinnitus – the perception of ringing, buzzing, or other phantom noises with no clear external source. While rarely indicating serious medical pathology, tinnitus can significantly disrupt concentration, sleep, and emotional well-being.

To manage tinnitus, audiologists first determine whether hearing loss or wax impaction exist alongside tinnitus – issues that may be treatable through amplification or cleaning. For remaining cases, we provide structured counseling, sound therapy, and stress reduction strategies. The goal is making tinnitus less distressing through habituation.

Balance Assessment and Treatment

Alongside hearing, the vestibular (balance) system is fundamental for spatial awareness and stability. Dizziness significantly increases falling risks while provoking anxiety. Audiologists diagnose balance disorders using specialized testing equipment assessing the vestibular and vision systems.

For eligible patients, we offer vestibular rehabilitation – customized exercises promoting central nervous system compensation for inner ear deficits. Audiologists develop home exercise programs while monitoring and progressing treatments.

Earwax Removal and Outer Ear Care

While cerumen (earwax) naturally protects ear canals, buildup can obstruct sound transmission, breed infection, or exacerbate tinnitus. Audiologists are uniquely trained and equipped to safely remove troublesome wax under microscopic guidance. We educate patients on preventing excessive buildup.

For those prone to blockage, regular wax removal can reduce progressive hearing loss and improve hearing aid functioning. Audiologists also diagnose and manage outer ear conditions like swimmer’s ear.

Protecting Hearing Health through Prevention

Alongside managing existing hearing loss, audiologists actively promote prevention initiatives – a central pillar of our professional Code of Ethics. We educate about noise-induced hearing loss from hazardous occupational and recreational sound exposures. Counseling targets use of protective equipment like earplugs.

Audiologists also screen hearing in underserved communities lacking access to routine care. We fit hearing protection for musicians and children with auditory processing disorder. Through advocacy, we progress hearing conservation legislation. Protecting society’s auditory health bolsters communication, safety, and wellbeing.

An Ongoing Partnership

I view my patients as true partners in care. Adjusting to hearing aids requires determination through fluctuating motivation, confidence, and patience. By recommending personalized solutions that align with patient values, I empower individuals to participate in shared decision-making.

My goal is always to validate patient challenges while building self-efficacy to handle evolving auditory needs. Together, we celebrate small victories as patients gradually acclimate to amplified sound and reengage with beloved activities. Their success stories motivate my ongoing professional efforts. After years caring for thousands of patients, every new hearing discovery still feels like a privilege.

I hope this overview illuminates key aspects of the audiology process – from comprehensive assessment to compassionate intervention. Please reach out with any questions or to schedule your first appointment to begin addressing frustration and worry related to hearing loss. My audiology team and I are here to help you reclaim communication confidence again soon.

About the Author

Picture of Ben Horlock Audiologist

Ben Horlock Audiologist

Ben Horlock RHAD MHSAA, is an accomplished audiologist deeply committed to delivering remarkable audiological services.

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