Audiologists are hearing professionals who diagnose potential hearing problems and specialize in treating hearing difficulties. These experts focus on rehabilitation and prevention of hearing disorders. In addition, their multidisciplinary knowledge is complemented by other scientific expertise, such as otolaryngology, in the physical, neurological, electroacoustic, genetic or electronic fields.

 

What conditions do audiologists treat?

3 of the most common conditions treated by audiologists are:

  • Hearing loss
  • Sensorineural hearing loss
  • Bilateral hearing loss
  • Deafness
  • Tympanic Drilling

Hearing loss is partial hearing impairment in one or both ears. This means that the patient can still hear, although with difficulty. This condition can be improved with the use of hearing aids, called hearing aids. These devices amplify sounds to allow the patient to regain the ability to hear sounds properly. Mostly, the hearing impaired, or people with difficulty hearing, need the support of augmentative speech imagery during childhood education. This has two objectives: for a correct auditory differentiation of the sounds of language, which also allows access to reading; and to facilitate communication and access to information transmitted at school. 

Sensorineural hearing loss is a type of hearing impairment, which occurs due to damage to the inner ear, or the nerve leading from the ear to the brain. The inner ear has very small hair cells, which are nerve endings that transform sounds into electrical signals. Nerves carry these signals to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to these particular cells or nerve fibers in the inner ear.

Bilateral hearing loss is when hearing impairment occurs in both ears. This, in turn, is divided into symmetrical or asymmetrical, according to whether it occurs to the same degree in both ears or varies in each.

Deafness is a total or profound hearing impairment and may begin at any time in life. It may result from damage to the nerves or the inner ear. Deafness can be caused by injury, a birth defect, disease, certain types of medication, exposure to loud sounds, or age-related deterioration. The main symptom is the inability to hear sounds. Some people may recover some degree of hearing after surgery.

A tympanic perforation is a tear in the tympanic membrane, which can be a tear or hole in the tissue that divides the ear canal from the eardrum, the middle ear. A ruptured eardrum can lead to hearing loss. It can also make the middle ear vulnerable to infection. A perforated eardrum usually heals itself in a few weeks, but sometimes requires a patch or surgical restoration to heal.

 

What treatments and procedures do audiologists perform?

5 of the most common treatments and procedures performed by audiologists are:

  • Audiometry
  • Hearing aids
  • Cochlear implant
  • Auditory evoked potentials
  • Otoacoustic emissions test

Audiometry is a test that assesses the ability to hear sounds. Sounds can vary according to the volume and speed of vibration of sound waves. Hearing occurs when sound waves stimulate the nerves of the inner ear. The sound then travels along nerve pathways to the brain. The sound waves can travel to the inner ear through the outer ear canal, eardrum, and bones of the middle ear. They can also pass through the bones around and behind the ear.

Hearing aids allow hearing impaired people to connect with their environment, improve their communication and avoid frustration. It is very important to be able to hear in order to maintain cognitive function and quality of life. Some of the great benefits of hearing aids are, avoiding misunderstandings, reducing the embarrassment of asking a person to repeat the same thing over and over again, preventing the individual’s depression due to feeling isolated, improving the patient’s social life, among others.

The cochlear implant is a hearing aid, which helps patients to hear. It is used by people who are hard of hearing or deaf. A cochlear implant is different from a hearing aid. This device is surgically implanted and works in a different way. It works by being implanted into the bone around the ear and consists of a receiver-stimulator, which decodes and then transfers an electrical signal to the brain. In addition, the cochlear implant has a second external part, consisting of a receiver, a speech processor and an antenna. This second part of the device receives the sound, transforms it into an electrical signal and sends it to the inner part of the cochlear implant.

The auditory evoked potential study is a test used to analyze the brain’s electrical activity in response to external stimuli. Each of these impulses is picked up by a different sensory organ, where they are translated into electrical signals that travel through the neurons to specific areas of the brain, where they are interpreted. In this test, this electrical activity is recorded through a series of electrodes that collect the electrical stimuli and amplify them for analysis. Thanks to this study, neurological lesions can be recognized in almost any area of the nervous system. In addition, they are especially useful in babies, who are not yet able to express themselves, if they notice external stimuli, or patients who have problems in expressing themselves.

The otoacoustic emission test is generally used for the detection of hearing problems in newborns. This portable test is an objective procedure, which evaluates hearing at a range of sound frequencies, which is essential for normal speech and language development.