Audiologist vs ENT Specialist
Posted 6/19/2018 by UHBlog
Not sure if you should see an audiologist or an ear, nose and throat specialist for a hearing problem? We hear you, and can help.
Want an earful about hearing loss? According to the National Institutes of Health, one in eight people ages 12 years or older has some measurable degree of hearing loss in both ears. And men between the ages of 20 and 69 are twice as likely as women to experience hearing loss.
“No matter your age, if you have concerns about your hearing, you need to consult your primary care physician,” says audiologist Gail Murray, PhD, MEd. “Depending on your medical history, your health care provider can advise you whether to see an audiologist or an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist. And for boomers who are Medicare eligible, a hearing test referral is a must for reimbursement.”
Even though the two medical providers work hand in hand, there are clear distinctions between audiologists and ENT specialists. Audiologists like Dr. Murray are “hearing doctors” who handle irreversible hearing problems and are trained to diagnose and treat diminished hearing. An ENT specialist – or otolaryngologist – can treat many hearing disorders through surgery and medication.
Along with evaluating hearing loss and helping patients manage hearing issues, audiologists are licensed healthcare professionals who provide hearing aids and other assistive listening devices.
According to Dr. Murray, you should see an audiologist when:
- Your complaint is mainly loss of hearing ability
- You have long-term or gradual hearing loss
- You have no medical conditions that could be associated with hearing loss
An ENT specialist is a physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating diseases of the ear, nose and throat. You should see an ENT specialist when:
- You believe your hearing loss is connected to medical issues
- You are experiencing ringing in the ears or headaches
- You have earwax build-up
- You are experiencing balance problems or vertigo
- You have had trauma to the head or ear
- You have swimmer's ear, earaches or sinusitis
To provide comprehensive hearing health care to patients, University Hospitals' 16 audiologists, located in eight Northeast Ohio locations, work as a team with UH ENT specialists for evaluation and treatment.
“Our schedulers are trained to determine which specialist a patient should see first when they call for an appointment,” says Dr. Murray. “Most frequently, they will see an audiologist first so the ENT specialist can review results of our hearing tests to fully understand the scope and nature of the hearing loss. This team approach is invaluable and I caution people to avoid seeing any audiologist who is not working closely with an ENT specialist.”
Although some hearing problems are genetic, there are certain workplace or recreational situations that can cause hearing loss. People who are at risk for hearing loss are:
- Factory workers
- Airline workers
- Construction workers
The following symptoms can indicate hearing loss:
- Difficulty understanding or following a conversation
- Fullness, pain or pressure in the ear
- Difficulty hearing the TV
- Ringing, buzzing or other noises in the ears
- Your friends and family mention your hearing problem
- Difficulty with clarity of certain voices
Dr. Murray says the good news is today’s advanced hearing aids are an effective option for correcting hearing loss and resuming a high quality of life.
“However, I want people to make sure their hearing aids are fitted by a fully licensed audiologist who will be there in the future to provide comprehensive ongoing care,” Dr. Murray says.
Gail Murray, PhD, MEd, is director of Audiology Services at The Audiology & Cochlear Implant Center in University Hospitals Ear, Nose & Throat Institute at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Murray or any other doctor online.