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Audiologists are the primary health-care professionals who evaluate, diagnose, treat, and manage hearing loss and balance disorders in individuals of all ages from infants and teens to adults and the elderly. These could include:
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss
- Hidden Hearing Loss
- Non-Syndromic Genetic Hearing Loss
- Syndromic Genetic Hearing Loss
- Congenital Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Infection
- Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
- Auditory Process Disorders
- Symptoms such as Tinnitus (ringing in the ear), Vertigo, and Dizziness
Why Should You See an Audiologist?
Through an exam, your audiologist will determine the type and degree of your hearing loss and the best management tools. Options may include hearing aids, assistive listening and alerting devices, cochlear implants, telephone and listening devices, aural hearing rehabilitation, and over-the-counter hearing aids.
Assistive Listening and Alerting Devices
Assistive listening devices (ALDs) are devices used with or without hearing aids, bone-anchored implants, and cochlear implants to make sounds more accessible to people with varying degrees of hearing impairment.
Many people with hearing loss depend on or can benefit from some kind of ALD to help them develop or maintain a comfortable level of independence in their daily lives.
Aural Hearing Rehabilitation
Sometimes a person with hearing loss is less able to enjoy social, work, family, or religious events because it takes more effort to listen to the person speaking. It can feel exhausting! Aural hearing rehabilitation aims to reduce the impact of hearing loss on daily activities including communication with others and participating in activities.
If an individual has severe hearing loss, there may be significant damage to the inner ear or the cochlea. Due to this, a hearing aid may not be able to provide enough help with improving access to sound. If hearing aids are no longer beneficial, a cochlear implant may be considered as the next option.
If your audiologist recommends hearing aids, they will be customized to fit your ears and hearing loss, as well as your individual needs and medical and audiological history. Modern hearing aids have automatic processing inside of the computer chip which can change the delivery of the sound based on the environment that you are in.
Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids
In response to demands from several government agencies to increase the affordability and accessibility of hearing aids in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Reauthorization Act was signed into law in 2017. This act includes language that urges the FDA to develop a set of regulations for over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids.
As the FDA implements these regulations (these regulations are NOT out yet), it is likely that you’ll begin seeing OTC hearing aids advertised in your local big box stores, online, and via mail. OTC hearing aids look similar to hearing aids that are available at an audiologist’s office however they differ in a few very important ways.
OTC hearing aids:
- Are approved for use by adults older than the age of 18 only
- Are for adults with mild to moderate hearing levels only
- Can be customized by the user for their hearing needs and may include self-assessments of hearing
- Are available over-the-counter, without a prescription, supervision, or involvement of a licensed hearing healthcare professional, such as an audiologist
Telephone and Listening Devices
Telephones can be a challenge for those with hearing loss. This is due to two significant limitations: limited acoustic (sound) information and lack of visual cues. Additional difficulty is added with poor cell phone reception, unfamiliar voices, and the fact that listeners must rely solely on hearing from one ear. There are multiple types of listening devices that can help with these challenges.