Why does the audiologist need to know that? What to expect from an audiologists evaluation.



Consumers are often confused about where to go when shopping for better hearing. Should they go to a retail store at the mall? Should they go to a medical doctor’s office? Should they call an audiologist?
Well… that last question only comes to mind if you know what an audiologist is. And most people do not. Hopefully if you are reading this blog you already know what an audiologist is. If not I’ll explain. An audiologist is a healthcare professional specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of all hearing and balance related disorders. Their background is clinical similar to a chiropractor, optomologist or dentist. They have the highest level of focused education (with 6-8 years of college) in hearing and balance care.
So, when you visit an audiologist they will be looking at many aspects of your health, your lifestyle and your expectations. They may ask some questions that don’t really make sense unless you understand what an audiologist is looking for.
Here are some examples…
The audiologist asks about your manual dexterity and is concerned with numbness or loss of dexterity in the fingers and hands. The audiologist is concerned about how well can you use your hands to handle small objects. Hearing aids, batteries, remote controls and other accessories for the hearing impaired tend to have small parts. The smaller the parts the more dexterity you need to manipulate the instruments. For instance, if you have very poor dexterity and you ask the audiologist go fit you with a very small hearing aid the audiologist will counsel you on your expectations. You’ll want to have the hearing aid for many years and have good use and satisfaction from the device. If everytime you handle the device it takes you hours to change a battery or put the hearing aid in your ear… you satisfaction will be affected. You could also run the risk of losing or damaging a hearing device that is too small to handle. Additionally if your hands are struggling to manipulate the hearing aid forget about being able to change the volume control or push the small push button. Let the audiologist counsel you about the best options for you when it comes to dexterity problems.
The audiologist asks about your vision. You’re here for your ears right… so why is the audiologist asking about your eyes? Well, because your vision will also affect how the audiologist will counsel you regarding the best options for hearing devices and for how you communicate with others. It is true that you hear better if you can see. People communicate both verbally and visually. Lip reading and hand gestures and facial expressions all help to improve communication. If you cannot see your communication is further challenged. Additionally, your vision will alter your ability to see your hearing device. Size, color and orientation can make a difference to the visually challenged. Let the audiologist help you discover the best options when it comes to visual issues and your hearing.
The audiologist asks about medical history and medications. Remember that audiologists have a clinical background. They have studied genetics, pharmacology and syndromes and diseases. These are studied because of the effects that medical history have on hearing. Certain diseases: diabetes, heart disease, stroke, meningitis, etc can cause hearing loss. Some medications can cause hearing loss. Family history of hearing loss puts you more at risk. Noise exposure and more. The audiologist needs to know how often to follow up with you and whether or not to recommend a referral to another specialist. Audiologists work within a team of healthcare professionals. They are going to refer to Ear Nose and Throat physicians for medically treatable hearing loss or hearing loss that looks to have been caused by other medical factors. They will refer to neurologists when the hearing loss is complicated by symptoms or signs of neurological origin. And with any referral they will communicate with your primary care doctor to collaborate medical care. And so on.
As you can see by reviewing only a few of the questions an audiologist will ask you, audiologists look at far more than just the ears. They look at the whole person. They understand that one part of the body can affect another. They understand that medications can interact with the hearing organ. They understand that your satisfaction is going to be determined largely by how well the hearing device matches your needs, helps you overcome your limitations and reaches your expectations hearing or otherwise.
It is a bit like cracking the mystery. Every patient comes with a different background, different needs and different lifestyle and expectations. Matching their hearing needs with the best instrumentation is both a science and an art. Remember to tell your audiologist anything you can think of that concerns you or is related to the questions the audiologist is asking you. The more your audiologist knows the better prepared he/she will be to help you.