Meet the hearing health professionals who may care for you during a hearing health visit.
There is a wide variety of hearing care providers in the profession. The following are a few of the different types you may encounter at a hearing health visit:
- Hearing instrument specialist
- ENT doctor (otolaryngologist)
These specialists may have some overlapping responsibilities, but they all have unique roles. Below, learn more about the details and differences between these hearing care providers.
When it comes to hearing health care, you may visit an audiologist more frequently than the others on this list. Audiologists are hearing health providers who narrow their focus only to hearing-related conditions, including evaluating and treating the varying degrees of hearing loss. They can prescribe and fit hearing aids, recommend products for hearing protection and hearing loss, test to monitor the progression of hearing loss, advise you on hearing-related balance concerns, and more. Most audiologists have earned a Doctor of Audiology degree (Au.D.), but you can also find professionals with Ph.D. and Sc.D. designations.
Hearing instrument specialist
A hearing instrument specialist, or HIS, can help you with just about anything related to hearing loss technology. The most common encounter you may have with a HIT is fitting, adjusting, and helping with the maintenance of hearing aids. They may also help you with other assistive listening devices, safely remove excess wax, recommend hearing protection, and administer hearing exams.
ENT doctor (otolaryngologist)
An ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor—a field also known as otolaryngology—is a licensed physician specializing in treating (you guessed it) the ears, nose, and throat. They’re qualified to provide medical and surgical treatment for ENT-related conditions. Specifically, in the context of hearing health, seeing an ENT might be one of your first steps in diagnosing and beginning to treat hearing loss. They can also treat tinnitus, ear pain, congenital ear disorders, and more. If you pursue cochlear implant surgery, an otolaryngologist may be the hearing health professional performing it.
If you think this hearing care provider name sounds like a shorter version of “otolaryngologist”—it is! It removes the Greek root words for “nose” and “throat,” leaving us with just oto for ear. An otologist performs similar hearing health duties as an otolaryngologist, usually, but not always, including surgical treatment. Thus, the main difference is that an otologist’s specialty doesn’t extend to nose and throat conditions.
Neurotology is an even more specialized subdiscipline of hearing care. It’s related to both otology and neurology, a branch of medicine for the nervous system. Specifically, neurotologists are hearing care providers who deal with the neurological aspects of the inner ear. They work to discover and treat hearing and balance disorders originating in the brain or nervous system and perform corrective surgery.
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