Audiologist vs ENT: Choosing the Right Healthcare Professional
Finding the right healthcare professional for your hearing can take time and effort. Which specialist should you consult? Should I see an ENT doctor or an audiologist?
Typically, hearing loss journeys start like Laura’s. Last year, Laura noticed that she often misunderstood the words when someone called her. But like most people, she delayed seeing a specialist. After several embarrassing calls, Laura decided to have her hearing checked. The challenge was deciding between an ear, nose, and throat doctor or an audiologist.
If you can relate to this story and are experiencing hearing loss, seeking professional help for your hearing difficulties is essential. Audiologists and ENTs fulfil different crucial roles in diagnosing and treating hearing conditions.
This article will help you choose between an audiologist or ENT for hearing problems and explain why you may need both.
Understanding Hearing Healthcare Providers
When looking for the right specialist for your hearing loss, it is vital to understand the difference between the two services. Let’s expand on the definitions, educational background, qualifications, and overlapping areas of expertise.
Exploring the Role of an Audiologist - Certifications, Expertise, and Practice
Audiologists are healthcare professionals specialising in diagnosing, assessing and treating hearing loss and balance disorders. These professionals work with patients, evaluate their hearing, fitting hearing aids and provide treatment for an array of auditory and vestibular conditions besides hearing loss, such as tinnitus and vertigo.
How do you become an audiologist?
You need a bachelor’s degree in science and a doctoral degree in audiology (AuD). Although the requirements in every country differ, audiologists are usually required to pass a Praxis Examination, get licensed and maybe obtain other certifications. All Auzen audiologists are certified and licensed in their respective countries and have proven expertise in hearing loss.
The audiologist usually tests your degree of hearing loss and ensures you are fitted with the appropriate hearing aids for your condition. Its technical skills include patient assessment, conducting diagnostic tests, and recommending hearing aids. Audiologists may work in private practices, physician’s offices, clinics, schools, hospitals, and research institutions.
Is an audiologist a doctor? Audiologists have a doctorate.
What can an audiologist diagnose? Audiologists are experts in hearing loss. They can test and diagnose hearing loss conditions.
Can an audiologist write prescriptions? Even though they have a doctorate, audiologists don’t perform surgery or prescribe medications. They, however, may recommend over-the-counter medications.
The Audiologist's Role in Hearing Health
Audiologists play a vital role in diagnosing and treating various auditory conditions and improving patients' quality of life. In the case of Laura, for example, an audiologist will conduct a complete assessment to identify her degree and type of hearing loss and determine the best treatment for her.
The audiologist evaluates each case and recommends and fits your hearing aid. These professionals also help with rehabilitation programmes such as tinnitus management programmes, counselling, and therapeutic interventions to help the patients adapt to hearing loss.
Exploring the Role of an ENT - Certifications, Expertise and Practice
Ear, nose, and throat surgery, also known as otolaryngology, is a medical speciality that treats issues and conditions related to these areas. Nose bleeds, ear infections, breathing and sleep issues, allergies and sinuses, head and neck cancer, hearing and balance problems, and even facial plastic surgery are some conditions the ENT doctor treats.
ENTs complete a five-year residency programme after medical school. These physicians assess, diagnose, and treat various conditions and disorders, including hearing-related issues, tumours, surgical procedures on the ear, nose, and throat, diseases, and trauma.
The ENT's Role in Managing Hearing Loss
The ENT will probably be your first stop when you experience hearing loss. An ENT physician will examine you to determine why you’re having trouble hearing. The doctor will rule out physical and physiological causes for your hearing loss, take in your medical history, and arrive at a preliminary diagnosis.
In most cases, the ENT will recommend other tests, including a hearing test, to verify your hearing loss and identify the severity and type of your condition. No two cases of hearing loss are the same, and many variables are involved.
ENTs have the specialised knowledge to attend to cases that require a surgical operation, such as implanting a cochlear device. They are skilled in determining and treating common causes of hearing loss, such as ear injuries, noise-induced hearing loss, and infections.
Knowing When to See an Audiologist
If you are experiencing hearing loss symptoms, it may be necessary to consult an audiologist. Auzen specialists recommend first seeing an ENT to rule out illness or physical causes for hearing loss.
Some of the situations that may require a visit to the audiologist include:
- You have difficulties understanding speech.
- You frequently ask others to repeat themselves.
- Other people say you have the TV or phone too loud.
- You hear a ringing or buzzing in your ears.
- You need help hearing in group conversations.
An audiologist has the skills to assess your hearing and identify the severity and extent of your hearing loss.
Usually, an ENT indicates the tests, and they may include:
- Evaluating the extent of your hearing loss - pure tone audiometry
- Evaluating your speech understanding - speech audiometry
- Assessing the health of your tympanic membrane - tympanometry
The Importance of Consulting an ENT Specialist First: Reasons and Benefits
As mentioned above, an ENT doctor can diagnose and treat ear, nose, and throat conditions. If you are experiencing trouble hearing, ear infections, tinnitus, or balance issues, it is a good idea to consult with an ENT first.
Why should you see an ENT before an audiologist?
Seeing an ENT before an audiologist has several advantages:
- The doctor can rule out a medical and treatable cause for your problem.
- The ENT can refer you to an audiologist for more testing to finalise your hearing loss diagnosis.
Understanding the Distinctions: Audiologist vs ENT Specialist
Both audiologists and ENTs contribute to hearing healthcare. Differentiating between audiologists and ENTs can help you know which one to turn to for your hearing loss management options. While audiologists’ expertise focuses on hearing loss, ENT specialists treat all medical and surgical disorders of the ear, nose, and throat, including hearing-related issues.
Despite the differences between the two specialities, collaborative care between audiologists and ENT is critical for ensuring the best outcome for your treatment. ENTs and audiologists work together to create the best course of action for the patient, tailored to their needs and lifestyle.
When choosing a professional to start your hearing loss healthcare, it is essential to remember that each case is unique. The severity and nature of your condition, your individual preferences about treatment, and your physician's recommendation are all factors that will influence your decision.
At Auzen, we recommend you have an appointment with an ENT and have a licensed hearing test (audiogram) before discussing hearing aid models with one of our audiologists.
Hearing Loss Diagnosis and Treatment - What to Expect
Evaluating your hearing loss can be time-consuming, requiring several tests and evaluations to understand the cause and severity of your issues. So what are the main steps to managing your hearing loss?
- Seeing an ENT: Your first step should be making an appointment with your ENT and discussing your hearing difficulties. The doctor will also take your medical history, medication, other health conditions, and family medical history.
The ENT will then perform a physical exam of your ears and maybe a tuning fork test in their surgery. Here, he will rule out medical causes that can be treated without hearing aids.
There are different types of hearing loss - which go beyond the scope of this article - and the test will tell you the type of hearing loss and if it is mild, moderate, or severe.
How Auzen audiologists can help with your hearing loss management
Choosing the best professionals for your hearing impairment can make a difference. Auzen's expert audiologists work with your ENT, conducting the necessary testing and analysing it to recommend the best treatment for your unique hearing loss.
Our extensive range of state-of-the-art hearing devices ensures that no matter your budget or lifestyle, you will find the right hearing solution to improve your quality of life.
Schedule your free appointment today with an Auzen audiologist.