A hearing specialist is responsible for the evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, and management of hearing loss in both children and adults. The specialist provides a wide range of services including:
• Diagnosing and evaluating hearing loss
• The assessment and treatment of individuals with tinnitus
• Treating the loss of hearing due to nerve damage with hearing aids
• Determining the need for cochlear implants
• Treating adults and children with disorders relating to central auditory processing
• Treating hearing loss in infants, children, teens, adults, and the elderly
• Prescribing, dispensing and fitting hearing amplification devices like hearing aids
A hearing aid specialist treats both balance and hearing disorders for individuals of all different ages. The personal and professional services provided improve the individuals ability to participate in activities and improves the quality of their life. There are services available to help the individual manage issues regarding balance and hearing. This includes:
• The evaluation and treatment of hearing loss including tinnitus disorders and balance issues pertaining to a loss of hearing.
• Helping choose, select and customize hearing aids for individuals of all ages with hearing difficulties.
• Providing evaluations and treatments for individuals with balance and dizziness issues pertaining to hearing.
• Helping individuals protect themselves from hearing loss by providing valuable information.
• Providing treatment for tinnitus in addition to teaching the individual how to deal with the ringing in their ears.
• Offering screening and testing for hearing for the identification of potential hearing disorders. This will confirm if the individual does have hearing loss, the degree and the best possible treatment.
The Diagnosis of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is extremely common among adults, especially individuals over 65. Despite this, hearing loss is frequently not diagnosed in older individuals. The quality of the individual’s life is often negatively impacted by hearing loss. This is one of the main reasons a hearing specialist is so important. The specialist is able to provide a definite diagnosis. Once the disorder has been diagnosed, the individual can receive the correct treatment. When hearing loss is suspected, there are numerous tests available for an accurate diagnosis of the type and the severity of the loss of hearing.
• Word recognition enables the specialist to test the hearing using word recognition and tones. The purpose is to understand how the individual hears the differences in the sounds made by a variety of words and how clearly they are hearing the actual words. The individual is asked to listen to various words and repeat them during this test.
• The air conduction test is often used to measure the hearing level of older children and adults. Test tones using frequencies from high to low are transmitted to the individual through earphones on both ears. When the individual hears a sound, they are asked to give a verbal response, push a button or raise their hand. This testing reveals the softest sound the individual can hear in each of the frequencies tested. This shows which areas have impaired hearing. When the sounds must be louder for the individual to hear them, the amount of hearing loss in that particular frequency is greater. The most important frequencies for understanding speech, hearing and environmental sounds are tested.
• If a hearing loss has been determined by previous testing, a bone conduction test is performed. This involves the use of a specific headset called a bone vibrator to determine which kind of hearing loss the individual has. Sounds are sent right to the inner ear through the device. If this process improves the hearing of the individual, it is classified as conductive in nature. This means the hearing loss is located in the middle or outer ear. If the vibrator does not make a difference, the hearing loss is classified as sensorineural. If both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss are detected, it is classified as a mixed loss of hearing.
• (ABR) Auditory brainstem response is the test used to measure the sensitivity of the hearing loss by determining if the brainstem’s neural pathways are transmitting the sound correctly. This will determine if there are any auditory-neurological issues. The brainwave activity is recorded during a series or tones or clicks for each ear. Electrodes are used on the individual’s head during the test so the brain’s electrical response can be detected for common sounds while the individual is sleeping or resting. It is important to note the electrodes are not uncomfortable or painful.
The Treatments Offered by a Hearing Specialist
There are different options for an individual with hearing loss. The hearing specialist may recommend listening devices including hearing aids or a medical treatment. The type of treatment necessary is dependent on the severity and the cause of the hearing loss. Although there is no cure for hearing loss due to age, hearing aids can improve the individual’s quality of life by enabling them to hear properly. Medical treatments such as surgery or medications are recommended for specific kinds of hearing loss. This is the most common with conductive hearing loss. Sometimes there is no treatment for the specific kind of hearing loss. In this instance, the specialist may require further testing or recommend a hearing aid.
Conductive hearing loss is most often caused by fluid located in the middle ear. This may or may not be accompanied by an infection. Sometimes, the ear canal is blocked by earwax. Antibiotics may be the solution if a bacterial infection is found in the middle ear. These types of issues are best treated by a specialist as opposed to a primary care physician. This is because the solution to so many instances of hearing loss is a listening device like a hearing aid. When hearing loss has been diagnosed without any medical treatment necessary, the individual generally has a hearing aid evaluation. This helps determine which type of listening device will provide the best results. This determination must take the hearing concerns, listening issues and lifestyle of the individual into consideration.
One option is called a cochlear implant. This is a little electronic device capable of improving the hearing for individuals with irreversible and severe hearing loss. It is important to understand this device is unable to restore the individual’s hearing. A cochlear implant enables the individual to hear better in addition to understanding more speech than possible through the use of a hearing aid. The definition of a hearing aid is an electronic device powered by batteries created to improve hearing. Hearing aids are small so they can be worn behind or in the ear to increase the volume of sounds. This helps numerous individuals hear better whether it is noisy or quiet.
Hearing aids are not the solution for every case of hearing loss. Unfortunately, only one out of every five individuals capable of benefiting from a hearing aid wear one. In most cases hearing aids help individuals with damage to the nerve or the inner ear. This type of damage can be caused by medications, loud noises, aging, and disease. The same option is not right for every person with hearing loss. A specialist understands the different types of hearing aids, their purpose, what they can and cannot treat and knows which hearing aid will work best for the unique needs of each individual. The considerations for selecting the correct device include understanding the personal preferences of the individual, any special features that are necessary and which device will work best for the type of hearing loss.
The specialist will also choose the device based on the individual’s age, lifestyle, ability to manage a small device and the severity of their hearing loss. There are two basic kinds of hearing aids. The first is an analog hearing aid. Sound waves are converted into electrical signals to increase the volume of the sounds. This type of device has simpler controls for the volume and is less expensive. The second type is a digital hearing aid. Sound waves are converted into numerical codes a lot like computer codes prior to being amplified. Information is included in the code regarding the volume, pitch, and direction of the sound. The sound is very easy to adjust for the preferences of the individuals in numerous places such as a stadium, a quiet park or a restaurant. Many offer automatic adjustments depending on the level of sound. This type of hearing aid is more powerful, smaller, and provides better results.
Hearing aids are available in three basic styles. Each style differs in the way they are placed in the ear, the size and the way they increase the volume of the sounds. One of hardest hearing aids to see is the canal due to the placement inside of the ear. The fit of the in-the-canal model fits into each person’s specific ear canal. The completely-in-canal model is virtually hidden within the ear due to the small size. Both of these generally work well for moderate to severe hearing loss. They are harder to remove and adjust because of the smaller size. This device may be placed in the ear each day or worn for months at a time.
The in-the-ear hearing aids are designed to fit on the outer ear. The electronics are contained in a hard plastic case. This type works best for adults with mild to severe loss of hearing. This device is not recommended for children because their ears have not finished growing. The behind-the-ear model is placed behind the ear and contained in a hard plastic case. A plastic mold placed inside of the outer ear sends the sound directly to the ear. This model is available in a miniature version that fits behind the ear. A narrow tube leads into the ear canal. This ensures the individual can clearly hear their own voice while preventing the buildup of earwax. This device is effective for all amounts of hearing loss and individuals of all ages.
The are special features available on some of the hearing aids. This is dependent on each individual device. These features have benefits such as enabling the individual to tune out the noise in the background to focus on a specific sound with a directional microphone or quieting background noise with a telephone switch. This helps the person hear better in churches, auditoriums, and theaters. The individual can plug into an FM listening device, a remote microphone or a television. There are different hearing aids specifically created for certain kinds of hearing loss. Some work better in certain environments or attach to a pair of eyeglasses. It is important to properly care for hearing aids to ensure they will last for a long time. This includes:
• Hearing aids should be kept away from moisture, heat, pets, hair care products, and children.
• Every type of hearing aid is cleaned differently. It is important to read the directions prior to cleaning them.
• When the hearing aid is not in use, it should be turned off. This will extend the life of the batteries. Dead batteries should be replaced immediately.
• The length of time the batteries will last is dependent on the power requirements of the hearing aid, the type of battery and how often the device is used. It is always a good idea to have a couple extra batteries on hand.
The majority of hearing aids generally last between three and six years. If the hearing loss of the individual becomes more severe, it may be necessary to secure a different type. Numerous individuals choose to upgrade their hearing aids on a regular basis due to the consistent improvements in technology. If you are interested in seeing a hearing specialist, visit Regional ENT Associates in Gallatin or Lebanon. Contact us today to schedule your appointment!