Do You Need an Audiologist or ENT? The Difference Between Various Hearing Care Professionals

Whether you’re just beginning your hearing care journey or are somewhere along the road, there are many different people you might have met or have yet to meet.

Questions often arise of who should be seen for what sorts of issues. Should you go to an audiologist or an ENT physician? Why might you see a physical therapist for hearing issues?

Read on for today’s post about the different types of medical and healthcare professionals and the roles they will play should you encounter them while caring for your hearing.

Audiologist

An audiologist is a medical professional holding an advanced degree in audiology pursued after achieving a bachelor's. Through their education, they focus on the entire hearing system as a whole and thus have a wider understanding of how the different parts of hearing interact with each other.

As a result, audiologists have a more medical background in hearing healthcare and often work out of medical centers like hospitals. 

Some of the things you might see an audiologist for include:

  • Diagnosing any issues with the systems of the ears such as hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance issues.
  • Identifying the need for hearing assistance devices (like hearing aids)
  • Helping people select the correct hearing device for their needs

If you are experiencing any sorts of issues with your hearing, scheduling an appointment with an audiologist is an excellent first step.

ENT Physician

An ENT physician is a surgical specialty that focuses on the ear, nose, and throat. These doctors are sometimes called by their more official name, otolaryngologist. According to the Columbia Department of ENT, “an otolaryngologist is ready to start practicing after completing up to 15 years of college and post-graduate training” and must pass the American Board of Otolaryngology examination.

An ENT would be consulted in the event that any surgical intervention is needed in hearing care. As they are focused on the entire interconnected system of the ear, nose, and throat, they are able to treat conditions that may be affecting all three. For instance, an ear infection may also be affecting the sinuses and an ENT is able to help both.

Hearing Instrument Specialist

A hearing instrument specialist is a licensed hearing care professional that is mostly focused on the technology and treatment of hearing loss with technology. 

If you are just dealing with hearing loss due to noise exposure or from getting older, you can be very well served by just seeing a hearing instrument specialist unless you have a medical history that could cause additional complications. 

In those cases, it’s likely you’ll see either an audiologist or an ENT.

Other People You Might See

Otologist

An otologist is another surgical sub-specialty but this one is just focused on the ears. In most cases, an ENT or audiologist will meet the needs of the majority of people with hearing loss. 

However if there’s a specific ear malady or something that is beyond the scope of their practice, you may be referred to an otologist. 

It’s very rare to go to an otologist without a referral unless they are the only physician at the practice.

Physical Therapist

It might seem strange to see this title on the list for hearing but because the ears house the balance systems, it just might be that you end up visiting a  physical therapist to help with resolving any vestibular issues.

In the event you’re experiencing inner ear issues that are affecting your balance, it’s very likely that your physician will refer you to a physical therapist to help resolve them.

Neurologist

In the very rare event that there is a tumor beyond the ear space that is affecting the hearing, a neurologist might be called in to help consult on how best to treat the issue. 

This might be through the removal of the tumor, chemotherapy, or a variety of other treatments.

Conclusion

As always, you should seek medical assistance immediately if you are experiencing:

  • Chronic ear pain
  • Dizziness
  • Sudden hearing loss/ has gotten worse over a short period of time
  • Hearing loss in only one ear
  • Any matter or fluid coming out of the ear

If you’re just beginning your hearing care journey and trying to identify a professional that is in your area, be sure to check out the Vibe Hearing Partner Directory to find an HCP near you.

 

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