Remember back in grade school when we had those mandatory vision and hearing screenings? It was the greatest day! Spelling lists and multiplication tables got put on hold while the entire first grade was taken, class by class, to the nurse’s office where they recorded our height and weight. Then we went into a room full of mysterious magic. One guy asked you to look at some chart while covering an eye. Next you sat down and put these crazy headphones on while another guy asked you to raise your hand when you heard a beep.
Chances are the person sitting behind you that day was an audiologist.
Audiologists actually provide a lot more services than just screening for hearing, and there’s a good chance one could offer some help to you. A quality ENT office might even have one on staff, and at the very least your primary care physician is going to have an audiologist he or she prefers to work with.
Today’s hearing specialist can do a lot more for you than just making sure elementary children don’t have an undiagnosed hearing problem.
One of the best services a hearing expert will offer you is suggestions and product to protect your hearing in the first place. Hearing loss is one of those things that is permanent, so the more you can do to prevent loss in the first place, the better off you’ll be. And it’s more than just wearing ear protection when you mow the lawn. They can design custom ear plugs that help block out unwanted noise–anything from the average earbuds for casual listening to special purpose earphones professional musician’s use. Having the right fit when it comes to ear protection is one of the key steps to avoiding permanent damage to your hearing.
A few years after we got that hearing test, we learned a really cool thing about the ear canal. It’s how we balance. We’d been testing it for years spinning around on those tires on the playground. Who knew? An audiologist is there for you when your tire swing days are long behind you and you’re having unexplained balance issues. He or she will provide you with a test for the symptoms and along with your doctor recommend a program of rehabilitation to get you to feeling better and address the problem.
1 in 5 people suffers from what is commonly thought of as a ringing or buzzing in the ears. The technical term for it is tinnitus. It can be caused by an adverse reaction to medications or it might indicate an underlying health problem. Either way, an audiologist has specialized in determining the severity and helping locate an exact cause for the problem.
Of course, if you’re already suffering from hearing loss, you may need to look at a hearing aid to help. Fortunately, hearing aids today are smaller and more advanced than ever, and you guessed it, an audiologist is going to be an expert on these as well. At very least, he or she is going to sit you back in that chair and run another hearing test, only this time it’s going to be much more sophisticated and probably more accurate.
It’s been a long time since we lined up outside that nurse’s office. If you’re having any problems with your balance or hearing, or if you want to make sure you never do, it’s probably time to put those headphones on again.