The Role of an Audiologist in Johannesburg

The audiologist is a specialised healthcare professional whose core activities involve the diagnosis of disorders that affect hearing or the vestibular system and, wherever it may be possible and appropriate, to the implementation of a range of effective corrective measures. In Johannesburg and in around 19 other locations spread across South Africa and the neighbouring state of Namibia, these services are expertly provided for either by branches of Ear Institute or by one of its satellite practices.

With the aid of a range of diagnostic instruments that employ a variety of advanced technologies, the practitioner must first conduct a selection of tests that are designed, firstly, to determine whether or not a patient’s hearing ability falls within the frequency range generally accepted as normal. In the event that this may not be the case, then additional investigations must follow and these will then be aimed at identifying which of the lower, middle and high range of frequencies are affected and also at providing a quantitative assessment of the degree of any such impairment.

These investigations will also reveal whether the condition affects just one ear or is bilateral while also helping to categorise the type of impairment as conductive, sensorineural or the combination of both that is commonly referred to as mixed hearing loss. Some of the tests employed when investigating these conditions may also be applied to the investigation of tinnitus and its possible causes.

Depending upon the results of the various diagnostic tests, the next step to be taken by the audiologist, whether practising in Johannesburg or in Windhoek, can vary considerably. In the majority of cases where a significant degree of hearing loss is confirmed, that step will be simply to recommend the use of a hearing aid and to discuss further the various options open to the patient both with regard to the choice of devices that are most appropriate to that patient’s individual needs and, of course, the associated cost implications.

Where the extent or the causes of impairment may, instead, suggest that the use of these devices may prove to be ineffective or contraindicated, the practitioner will likely refer the patient for further investigation by another healthcare professional such as a physician, a surgeon or an ENT specialist.

The focus of these hearing specialists is not actually confined to determining to what extent their patients may or may not be able to hear. One of the functions performed within the inner chamber of the ear, for instance, is important to determining the body’s orientation in space as well as in assisting it to maintain its balance. These are the functions of the so-called vestibular system, made up from 3 semicircular, fluid-filled canals and which, together with the adjoining cochlea, make up the structure known as the labyrinth.

Most things that affect the inner ear, such as infections, will result in some disturbance to the vestibular system that, in turn, will give rise to dizziness and often to nausea. Any examination at this stage that, for instance, confirms either an infection or the absence of one, will be of equal value to the specialist on referral.

The trained audiologist such as those of the Ear Institute in Johannesburg provides a vital role necessary to any comprehensive healthcare service.

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