Did you know that hearing loss is the third most-common health issue in the US? The fact is, around 10 percent of Americans suffer from hearing loss, and many go without treatment simply because they aren't sure what type of doctor they need to see. Both ear, nose, and throat (ENTs) and audiologists work with people battling hearing loss, but how do you know which doctor you need? Learn more about both types of doctors so that you can determine which best fits your needs.
ENTs vs Audiologists
An ENT is a medical doctor who specializes in treating patients who have problems with their ears, nose, and/or throat. Many are qualified to treat something as simple as an ear infection, as well as perform surgical procedures, such as placing tubes in a person's ears. Because the main job of an audiologist is to test a person's ability to hear and try to determine why a person has lost some of his or her ability to hear, many places only require audiologists to obtain a master's degree in audiology. However, some audiologists opt to extend their education to become a Doctor of Audiology.
Determining Your Needs
When you first notice a loss of hearing, you should contact an audiologist — unless there is a specific medical reason that could have caused your hearing loss or you're experiencing additional symptoms, such as headaches or ringing in your ears, along with your hearing loss. Your audiologist will work with you to determine what has caused your hearing loss and help you improve your quality of life by working to restore some of your hearing. You should expect to take a basic hearing test, discuss your options, and get advice on what type of hearing device can help improve your hearing. If your audiologist believes that your hearing loss can be fixed with medical treatment or surgery, he or she may refer you to an ENT.
Do You Need an ENT
You only need to see an ENT if your hearing loss is caused by or related to an underlying medical condition. Keep in mind, hearing loss can be caused by a variety of things, including the buildup of earwax or frequent occurrences of swimmer's ear. So, your audiologist might refer you to an ENT for a simple condition that's easily treated.
The bottom line is, if you don't know that an unknown medical condition is causing your hearing loss, seeing an audiologist is your first step. Once you've had a proper hearing test, your audiologist will assess your needs and determine whether or not you need to see an ENT.
For more information, contact Mark Montgomery MD FACS or a similar medical professional.