Professional Audiology Services – A Key Factor in Maintaining Hearing Health
Audiology practitioners are healthcare professionals that are far less often in the public eye and whose activities may seem somewhat less glamorous than those of a cardiologist or cosmetic surgeon for instance. Despite such uniformed and unjustified comparisons, however, these highly-trained and skilled specialists perform a service that, to their patients, is every bit as life-changing as an aortic valve replacement or a facelift.
These specialists often work closely with ENT surgeons, providing them with the diagnostic data that is essential when planning their interventions. More often though, their focus will be on the assessment of hearing with a view to detecting the cause and nature of any impairment, then evaluating and implementing the most appropriate corrective measures.
Audiology then is a science that is devoted to the study of the ear’s functions and thus its primary focus is on the assessment of hearing and balance and the disorders that may compromise them. It combines a physical examination of the ear, much like that routinely conducted by a physician, with the use of specialised instruments that are designed to measure its functional efficiency. The most important of these diagnostic tools is the audiogram.
In health, the human ear should be able to detect sounds both when produced at quite low volumes and generated over a surprisingly wide range of frequencies. An audiology examination results in a graph that describes just how closely a subject performs in comparison to the established norm. Each ear is tested independently using an earpiece to deliver sound. The volume is increased until the subject indicates that he or she has heard it and the result recorded on a chart. The process is then repeated at varying frequency ranges across the entire audible spectrum to create a detailed graphical representation of overall hearing efficiency. Where significant deviation from the norm is noted, further testing will be undertaken to determine if the hearing loss is of conductive, sensorineural or mixed origin.
Where audiology testing indicates some degree of hearing impairment, the specialist will proceed to investigate the most appropriate corrective measure. This choice will be determined largely by the degree and the source of impairment and whether one or both ears are affected. In most instances, the condition is likely to be managed very effectively with a hearing aid. Today’s instruments employ solid state digital electronics to deliver high fidelity sound free of all interference. Sometimes, however, audiology studies may indicate that, due to type and severity of impairment, a cochlear implant is the only viable solution.
The Ear Institute operates a nationwide chain of clinics staffed by experience specialists and equipped with the most advanced diagnostic audiology equipment.