Audiology is the branch of science dealing with disorders related to hearing and balance. Audiologists are professionals who primarily provide health care for these disorders. Their most common duty is to certify hearing impairments and prescribe hearing aids for them. However the expertise of audiologists is not limited to hearing disorders and includes balance related issues as well.
Image Credit: Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock
What Conditions Can Audiologists Help With?
The scope of audiology is applicable to a range of disorders. The disorders may be present in infants, children, adults or the elderly. Below are some of the primary conditions that an audiologist can help a person with:
Hearing Disability – The severity of this could vary depending on the ear condition(s) faced. Using audiometers allows the audiologist to work out the exact extent of hearing damage a person suffers from. The audiologist will pinpoint the reason for hearing loss and then provide a possible solution or treatment for the condition.
Amplification – The primary way to deal with hearing loss is through wearing a hearing aid to amplify the sounds around a person. Different types of assistive listening devices are available in the market and it would be the responsibility of the audiologist to find the perfect solution to the problem.
Auditory Processing Disorders – These are disorders in the brain processing of sounds heard. The audiologist can measure what sounds and frequencies a person is able to register. There is a prescribed normal range for human hearing and people with problems fall short of this range. The cerebral cortex may also have problems distinguishing between speech and non-speech sounds. A wide number of audiological tests are available to pinpoint such problems.
Tinnitus – This is characterized by a noise or ringing sound in the ears. The primary symptom is a buzzing or whistling sound that is low intensity and present all through the day. It can be an extremely disturbing and uncomfortable condition. There are multiple possible causes for tinnitus and an audiologist can help reduce its effects on the person.
Hyperacusis and Misophonia – The increased sensitivity to everyday sounds in the normal environment is known as Hyperacusis. While Misophonia refers to the selective sensitivity to small repetitive sounds. The symptoms are like having the normal sounds amplified sort of like a television with its volume turned up too high.
Balance Disorders – These are caused when the inner ear balance is disturbed. The condition involves some amount of dizziness as well as vertigo, with the dizziness potentially caused by ear infections or trauma. The audiological testing would reveal which, and determine the course of treatment.
What do Audiologists do?
The general duties of an audiologist include examining patients with hearing or balance-related problems. They are highly educated specialists who test the patient based on the symptoms that have been described. After the tests have been performed they diagnose the problem and determine the treatment method most suitable.
A range of devices and therapies are available to address most of the commonly faced audiological problems mentioned here. The fitting and dispensing of such hearing aids falls under their care.
The audiologist will also counsel the patient and their family members about possible difficulties that they may have using the gadgets that provide solutions for their disabilities.
Audiologists also make the regular checks required to change the treatment plans for the patients when there is a change in the hearing range of the patient. The progress of the patient is maintained in records by the consulting audiologist.
The general public is also educated on ways to prevent hearing loss by audiologists. They delve into research based on what causes hearing and balance disorders. The research may also involve finding new treatment methods for existing disorders.
Speech Language Pathology
Audiologists working in the field of Speech Language Pathology work towards diagnosing, assessing, treating and preventing speech-language related disabilities in children and adults. These are the primary types of disorders that may arise.
Speech Disorders – when the patient has a problem making speech sounds properly. This can be inherent or caused by trauma, with examples including stuttering or having problems with the voice box.
Language Disorders – when the patient is unable to understand others or is unable to express his or her own thoughts and feelings. This could be a shortcoming in the spoken or written language.
Social Communication Disorders – when the patient has a problem communicating in verbal and non-verbal manners to express oneself in a social setting. Examples of this include autism or having a traumatic brain injury.
Cognitive Communication Disorders – when the patient has a problem organizing thoughts, paying attention to others, or remembering things while speaking. This can be caused by a traumatic brain injury, a stroke or even the onset of dementia.
Swallowing Disorders – when the patient has a problem swallowing or feeding themself after a stroke, possible injury, surgery or simply following a severe illness that they have recovered from.
Reviewed by Afsaneh Khetrapal BSc (Hons)