What Does An Audiologist Do?

"I am keenly interested in working with people with hearing difficulties because I grew up with a brother who is hard of hearing. Can you please tell me the duties that audiologists do every day?"

asked by Eloisa D. from Knoxville, Illinois

Audiologists are healthcare professionals who utilize advanced technology and detailed checkups to diagnose, treat and manage patients who have hearing and balance problems. By conducting detailed auditory and vestibular assessments, audiologists are able to diagnose the problem, determine its cause and recommend a mode of treatment. They carry out the necessary tests using audiometers, computers and other sophisticated equipment.

Audiologists determine an individual’s hearing problems by looking at the volume when the patient starts to hear sounds and his ability to differentiate between sounds. They then recommend the best treatment options which could include something as simple as cleaning the wax that have impacted in the ear canals to fitting the patient with hearing aids.

Another mode of treatment is the placing of tiny devices called cochlear implants under the skin located close to the ear. The implants enable those with certain kinds of deafness to hear again because they bring the electrical impulses straight to the brain’s auditory nerve.

If the patient is merely suffering from vertigo and not hearing loss, the audiologist can also administer procedures that give relief. In some cases, simple head exercises or proper positioning of the head will help alleviate symptoms. In some cases, audiologists may opt to recommend that a patient go to an ear nose and throat (ENT) doctor based on the result of the initial assessment. This happens when he sees that the condition will be better addressed by an ENT physician.

Audiologists also help patients and their families on how to still communicate effectively with each other despite the disability. They may recommend such strategies as lip reading or learning the American Sign Language. Providing these kinds of options is essential to help the family cope with the problem and allow the patient to continue to live life as normally as possible.

Because treatments for hearing loss and balance problems are rehabilitative by nature, audiologists need to see patients on a regular basis to determine if the prescribed mode is working or if it needs to be changed. They also need to judiciously keep records and monitor the progress made by their patients. They also do research related to the causes, treatment and advanced technologies for hearing and balance difficulties, particularly if a patient’s symptoms are puzzling or not in line with common manifestations.

Audiologists may choose to specialize their practice by addressing the hearing needs of a particular segment of the population, such as children or the elderly. There are also those who specialize in designing products that aim to safeguard the hearing of workers engaged in occupations where hazards to their hearing—machinery that produce loud sounds, noisy transportation, etc.—are a regular feature of their work.

Audiologists may also perform administrative tasks, especially if they have their own private practice. These include ordering equipment and supplies, hiring employees and keeping documents and records filed and organized.

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