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Difference Between an Audiologist and an ENT

Two Doctors

Hearing loss is an extremely difficult condition to live with. It can alienate us from friends, relatives and even our significant others. Even those who love us very much can start to lose patience when they keep having to repeat themselves around us. Likewise, we can find ourselves slowly drifting out of our social circle when we’re no longer able to follow the thread of conversation in busy bars or restaurants. Even our neighbors can become adversarial towards us when we find ourselves cranking up the radio or TV beyond what they would consider an appropriate level. What’s more, because hearing loss tends to affect us slowly and incrementally, we can find ourselves unaware that we are even afflicted by hearing loss until we have already been suffering with it for some time.

The great news is that whatever the extent, cause or nature of your hearing loss, there is a lot of help and support out there. But do you see an audiologist to evaluate your hearing loss or an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor? Here we’ll look at the difference between the two and what each can do for you.

Audiologists and ENTs: The similarities and differences

There are some similarities between the services offered by audiologists and ENTs and this can muddy the waters and lead to confusion as to which is best suited to meet your needs. Both audiologists and ENTs deal with issues of the ear canal and inner ear. Both are able to make diagnoses and administer a range of treatments. However, an audiologist will have a more specific knowledge towards how these parts of your body pertain specifically to your hearing rather than to your overall health.

That said, the waters are further muddied when your hearing loss is accompanied by other symptoms such as tinnitus, loss of balance and nausea which are common symptoms of inner ear conditions. So, when is it pertinent to see an audiologist and when is your time better spent deferring to the expertise of an ENT doctor?  

When to see an audiologist

An audiologist should be your first port of call if you are affected by hearing loss.  While it’s part of an audiologist’s job to determine the cause of your hearing loss, they may not always be able to administer the most effective course of treatment. While hearing loss is often a natural consequence of the aging process or of a lifestyle that regularly exposes one to noise, it can also be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.

An audiologist cannot perform surgeries and cannot prescribe drugs. What they can do, however, is remove deposits of 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, they can help you to find a hearing aid that helps to mitigate the effects of your hearing loss.

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 ENT specialist.

When to see an ENT

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.

Let us take the guesswork out of the equation for you!

At ENT Physicians Inc. we’ll take the guesswork out of the equation for you by listening attentively to your symptoms and prescribing the correct course of treatment for you. With both ENT doctors and audiologists on staff, we can provide you the comprehensive care you deserve. If you are plagued by hearing loss or any inner ear issues call us today at (419) 776-5028.