Ear, Nose and Throat specialist or an Audiologist.
Ear, Nose and Throat specialist or an Audiologist.
When a person has a hearing problem, they might be uncertain whether to visit an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor (ENT Physician) or an Audiologist.
It is important to understand the differences, so you can get the correct medical treatment. It will also prove cost effective to choose the correct practitioner from the outset.
Audiologists and ENT Physicians often work in cooperation to see that their patients with hearing loss and balance disorders, have the best treatment available for their particular needs.
This article guides you as to which medical practitioner is correct for your medical problem.
The article covers the following areas:
- Who is an audiologist?
- What is an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor (ENT)?
- When should I see my medical doctor / general practitioner?
- When should I visit an ENT or an Audiologist?
Who is an audiologist?
An audiologist is a health care professional who can evaluate, diagnose and manage hearing loss and balance disorders. Audiologists are qualified to treat patients of any age (birth to adults)
Where the audiologist diagnoses a hearing loss, they can treat the loss and proactively prevent related or further damage. If you are experiencing a gradual loss in hearing, then the ideal professional to see in an audiologist.
Through comprehensive testing strategies, the audiologist can also determine :
- which frequencies (high, middle or low frequency) are affected;
- to what degree of severity or loss of hearing is impacted and
- where in the auditory system (outer ear, middle ear, inner ear, auditory nerve and/or central nervous system) the hearing loss has occurred.
An audiologist cannot perform surgeries and cannot prescribe drugs. they can however, remove earwax which can cause hearing loss. They can help to keep your ears clean, carry out tests of the ear canal, eardrum and inner ear and of course, and find a suitable hearing aid.
Once the hearing loss is diagnosed, the audiologist can provide recommendations for interventions or rehabilitation. These interventions can include dispensing and fitting of hearing aids, referrals for cochlear implants and appropriate medical referrals.
An audiologist will assist you with any hearing devices, including any accessories and repairs of the device. This service includes evaluating the different hearing device options available to you and then they will arrange the fitting of the hearing device. The audiologist will also assist with adjusting the settings of the hearing device to ensure that the device provides you with the best possible hearing experience in a range of difference hearing environments.
It is, however, possible that an audiologist may determine that your hearing loss is the symptom of a much bigger problem for which they may need to refer you to an Ear, Nose and Throay specialist.
Nishara Mooruth is an audiologist. You can see the full range of here services here: Audiology Services
What is an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist (ENT Doctor)?
An otolaryngologist, or Ear, Nose and Throat specialist (ENT), specializes in conditions or diseases involving the ear, nose, throat, base of the skull and the neck area.
The ENT Physician is highly qualified to recommend the appropriate medical or surgical treatments for your condition. In the case of hearing loss, if no medical or surgical treatment will improve the condition, the Physician may provide medical clearance to proceed with a hearing aid trial.
Usually, either your doctor or your audiologist will refer you to an ENT professional. They will be able to carry out further testing if your audiologist is unable to determine the cause of your hearing loss, or if the cause is beyond their capability to treat.
Most cases of hearing loss are slow and incremental which makes them difficult to notice. Therefore, if you experience a sudden and profound loss of hearing, you will need to make an appointment with an ENT doctor to receive proper diagnosis and treatment.
An ENT doctor will be able to carry out more comprehensive tests than an audiologist and will also be able to prescribe pharmaceutical treatments or perform surgery if your hearing loss is caused by calcified bones or benign tumors. A helpful way to remember the distinction between an audiologist and an ENT is to think of an audiologist as a hearing specialist. If it pertains to hearing trouble they should be your first port of call. If your troubles pertain more to a loss of balance or feeling of pressure in the inner ear, you may be better served by a visit to your local ENT clinic.
An ENT doctor treats problems such as:
- Earwax buildup;
- Sudden hearing loss or change in hearing;
- Hyperacusis (a condition in which normal sounds are painfully loud) and
- Tinnitus or ringing of the ear.
- Illness, infections or disorders of the throat affecting speech, eating, breathing, chewing or swallowing;
- Sinus pressure and headaches;
- Problems related to smelling;
- Nose conditions that affect breathing;
Head and Neck:
- Tumours or diseases affecting the neck and head;
- Treatment of nerves in the neck or head area that cause problems with hearing, smell or movement in the face
ENTs can also determine whether your hearing loss is connected to a specific medical issue.
If you have indeed suffered from hearing loss, the ENT doctor can diagnose you and schedule you for a hearing test with an audiologist.
In some cases, hearing loss can arise as a result of a problem that can be corrected with surgery. An ENT doctor is also a surgeon and can perform a variety of surgical procedures in the ear tubes.
When should I see my medical doctor / general practitioner?
Any loss of hearing through a cold or flu, you should ideally see your local general practitioner (GP) doctor. He can diagnose the problem and hopefully prescribe medication to treat infections or other medical conditions affecting the ear. These include :
- removal of a buildup of ear wax;
- foreign objects in the ear
- may also screen for a hearing loss to see whether a referral is required
The medical doctor may refer to either an ENT or an Audiologist as required.
Should I see a medical doctor or Ear, Nose and Throat specialist or an Audiologist?
The table below will give you a guideline as to which medical professional is suitable for your situation.
|I have a cold / flu and my ears are blocked affecting my hearing Note: This is a short term problem and you should see your local GP for treatment.||Yes. If after treatment by your GP., the problems persists or it’s a recurrent problem, you should then visit an ENT.||Yes. To monitor that the infection has subsided and monitor your hearing status once the infection has subsided.|
|Problem with my throat||YES||NO|
|Pain in my nasal passage||YES||NO|
|Sudden pain in the ear and your hearing is affected||YES||A hearing screening can be performed and subsequent referral to an ENT based on the findings|
|Gradual loss of hearing||NO||YES|
|I have a confirmed hearing loss and I need a hearing device to assist me with my hearing||NO||YES|
|My hearing device is not working properly.||NO||YES|
|I need accessories for my hearing device||NO||YES|
Throughout your lifetime, there are a number of different issues that you might have with your ears . There are a number of different issues that you might have with your ears throughout your lifetime. If you do start experiencing any recurring symptoms, it’s important that you get them checked out as soon as possible. That way, you can get the right kind of treatment before the issue has a chance to develop or worsen.
If you require further advise than provided in the above article, contact Nishara Mooruth for more advise.
Let us know if there are any other differences between an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist and an audiologists in the comments below.