16 Jun ENT vs Audiologist
What is an audiologist? What is an ENT? What are the differences in roles and practice?
An audiologist is a health care professional who is educated and trained to identify decreased hearing and associated disorders, such as balance disorders and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). An audiologist uses an assortment of tests and procedures to evaluate hearing and balance performance. They are experts at explaining how hearing damage occurs and the effect hearing loss can have on one’s quality of life. They can determine if a client could benefit from hearing aids or other assistive listening devices and help with the selection, fitting and training in their use in order to rehabilitate individuals with hearing loss and related disorders.
An Otolaryngologist is a doctor trained in the medical and surgical treatment of individuals with disorders and diseases of the ear, nose, throat (ENT), and associated areas of the neck and head. An ENT is trained to perform surgery on cancers and other critical conditions that appear within the ears, nose and throat.
When it comes to ear related issues, the main difference between an audiologist and an ENT is that an audiologist manages the non-medical aspects of hearing problems. If there are no identified physical causes of the hearing loss, the audiologist determines how a client can benefit from their current hearing levels. However, if there is a physical cause of hearing loss that warrants treatment such as Meniere’s and autoimmune diseases, tumors, fused inner-ear bones, or an eardrum perforation, an ENT assists with medical intervention.
Why you may be referred to an audiologist, an ENT, or both:
An individual may be referred to see an audiologist for several reasons, including excessive earwax, vertigo and balance problems. Two of the most common reasons why individuals are referred to an audiologist are due to reported tinnitus and/or decreased hearing. Tinnitus is a sound that can be heard intermittently or constantly and can be described in a number of different ways, such as ringing, buzzing, whooshing, ocean waves and white noise. Individuals who report symptoms of decreased hearing or difficulties hearing in specific situations should also be referred to an audiologist. Common hearing complaints include asking for frequent repetition, problems understanding speech in crowds, trouble hearing children or female voices and difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds such as birds, crickets and a phone ringing.
An individual may be referred to see an otolaryngologist or ENT due to autoimmune problems, incidences of ototoxicity or sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL), balance or dizziness symptoms, suspected otosclerosis, ear pain, head or ear trauma, ongoing ear infections or sinus problems.
How does an audiologist and ENT work together?
In many cases, an audiologist and an ENT can work together by diagnosing and treating hearing loss. When audiologists see patients in private clinics, depending on the hearing results and reported symptoms, the audiologist could then recommend the patient see an ENT doctor for further medical investigation. The audiologist will complete a report with the results and recommendations and send it to the family physician. If necessary, the family physician will refer the patient to ENT. In many clinics, audiologists work directly with the ENT with patients first seeing the audiologist for an audiogram and seeing the ENT after. The audiogram helps the ENT determine a course of treatment if necessary.