Healthy Hearing primer on hearing healthcare professionals

Contributed by | Thursday, September 8th, 2016

http://www.healthyhearing.com/uploads/images/Hearingcarepros.jpg

With so many different titles, credentials and specialties, it can sometimes be hard to determine which type of professional to see for your particular ear or hearing concern. How do you know when to see an audiologist versus an ENT, for example? What about a hearing instrument specialist? There are experts equipped to address all aspects of your hearing and balance, and we have put together a primer about each of their specific roles so you can find the right professional to meet your needs.

Audiologist

female physician going over test results with woman patient
There is a hearing care professional 
for every need.

An audiologist is a medical professional with a master's degree, clinical doctorate (AuD) or research-based doctorate (PhD) in audiology from an accredited university. They have extensive education and training in diagnostic testing to identify, evaluate and measure hearing loss and other related disorders, including balance disorders and tinnitus. Some audiologists have areas of specialty including pediatrics, balance disorders, cochlear implants, hearing conservation or hearing aids. If they dispense hearing aids or other assistive devices, they are licensed by the state, and they can find solutions for every patient based on hearing loss, budget, style preference and lifestyle. 

Reasons to see an audiologist:

  • Changes in your hearing
  • You wish to purchase hearing aids
  • Programming and maintenance of hearing aids
  • Ringing in your ears (tinnitus)
  • Balance problems
  • Concerns about your child's hearing
  • Cochlear implant programming and aftercare

Hearing instrument specialist

A hearing instrument specialist, also known as a hearing aid specialist, is a licensed professional who evaluates hearing problems and selects and fits hearing aids. Like audiologists, they are skilled at finding the right hearing solution based on your hearing evaluation, lifestyle, and budget. Hearing instrument specialists' practices typically focus on the adult population. Hearing loss in children, and especially babies, can be complex and requires the attention of a pediatric audiologist and sometimes an otolaryngologist. 

Reasons to see a hearing instrument specialist:

  • Changes in your hearing
  • You wish to purchase hearing aids 
  • Programming and maintenance of hearing aids

Otolaryngologist

An otolaryngologist, also known as an ENT, is a physician trained in the medical and surgical management of diseases and disorders of the ear, nose, throat and related structures of the head and neck. Otolaryngologists offer a broad range of services for ear disorders such as hearing loss, ear infections, middle ear problems, swimmer's ear, balance disorders, tinnitus, cranial nerve disorders and congenital disorders of both the outer and inner ear. They must be certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology, which requires 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school and a 5-year residency in otolaryngology. 

Reasons to see an otolaryngologist:

  • Changes in your hearing
  • Ear pain or discharge
  • Balance problems
  • Tinnitus or ringing in the ears
  • Concerns about your child's ears
  • Middle ear infections
  • Surgery on structures in the head or neck
  • Other concerns related to the throat, sinuses, head and neck

Regardless of their credentials or work setting, these providers are dedicated to your hearing and balance concerns.

Otologist

Like an otolaryngologist, an otologist is a physician specialist, but they are further focused on the ears and their related structures. They complete a 2-year otology fellowship that allows them to provide medical and surgical care for patients with diseases and disorders that affect the ears and balance system.

Reasons to see an otologist:

  • Changes in your hearing
  • Ear pain or discharge
  • Balance problems
  • Tinnitus or ringing in the ears
  • Concerns about your child's ears
  • Middle ear infections
  • Surgery on the ears and structures within the ears

Neurotologist

Closely related to an otologist is a neurotologist. A neurotologist is a physician who specializes in neurological disorders of the inner ear. Neurotologists are specially trained to evaluate the brain and nervous system to help find the root cause of a hearing or balance disorder. They offer surgical intervention for hearing disorders resulting from problems deep within the temporal bone or base of the skull and work with neurosurgeons to correct diseases and disorders of the cranial nerves.

Reasons to see a neurotologist:

  • Surgery to correct complex hearing and balance issues that originate in the brain or nervous system

Educational audiologist

Usually employed in the school system, an educational audiologist is trained to work with children who have hearing loss to ensure they receive the same educational opportunities as their hearing peers. They can play a role in identifying a child’s hearing loss, but they are uniquely qualified to determine the impact the hearing loss has on learning. They work as part of a team to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and formulate a plan for the student to receive maximum support in the classroom, including recommendations for hearing assistive technology. Other responsibilities might include counseling parents and teachers regarding the child’s hearing loss and individual needs, and educating the school population about hearing loss.

Reasons to see an educational audiologist:

  • Development of an IEP once your child has been diagnosed with hearing loss 
  • Help mainstreaming your child with hearing loss
  • Managing the support of your child with hearing loss in the school system 

Whether your provider is called "doctor," goes by their first name, wears a white lab coat, works in a private practice, hospital or school they are all dedicated to getting to the root of your concerns about hearing and balance. Don't delay if you suspect you or someone you care about needs help. As a first step, see our directory of consumer-reviewed clinics near you and make the call.

Take our online Hearing Check

Featured professionals near you

Leesburg Family Hearing
211 Gibson St NW Ste 202
Leesburg, VA 20176

View Details

Blue Ridge Speech & Hearing Center
19465 Deerfield Ave Ste 201
Leesburg, VA 20176

View Details

Reston Ear Nose and Throat
1860 Town Center Dr Ste 335
Reston, VA 20190

View Details

Professional Hearing Aid Service
1800 Town Center Dr Ste 315
Reston, VA 20190

View Details

Search for a professional

The Healthy Hearing Report

Opn revolves around you
Need help?

Need help?

We have more hearing clinic reviews than any other site!

Find a trusted clinic near you: