What to Expect at an Audiology Appointment
It's completely normal to feel unsure of what to expect during your first audiology appointment.
Most people visit an audiologist because they have been referred by another doctor or specialist for suspected hearing problems. But seeing an audiologist is not like seeing a regular doctor.
What do Audiologists Do?
Audiologists are highly trained professionals who specialize in evaluating, diagnosing, treating, and managing issues related to hearing, tinnitus, and balance disorders. All audiologists have a masters degree and many audiologists have a Doctor of Audiology which is equivalent to Ph.D.
Audiologists use a complete range and variety of tests and procedures to fully evaluate the hearing ability and/or any balance issues of each individual. Some audiologists may also fit and dispense hearing aids or other hearing devices.
Your First Appointment
At your first audiology appointment, the doctor will want to get a case history from you. This will include any relevant medical history, any recent complaints and symptoms you've had, and anything related to your symptoms.
You should consider taking a close friend or family member with you to the appointment, as some audiologists use tests that involve hearing a familiar voice and testing your hearing with that medium.
It also helps to have someone else present to help you communicate with the audiologist and to help remember and write down information.
He will then want to run a few tests. Audiologists do three main types of tests:
- Otoscopy - The audiologist will look in your ear canal with an 'otoscope' and magnifying pen light. He will be checking for ear wax, blockages, or any problems with your ear canal or ear drum.
- Tympanometry - This will test your middle ear function. The audiologist will be looking to see how well your ear drum responds to light pressure. The test can detect anything that would inhibit motion of the eardrum like fluid, infection, or eustachian tube dysfunction.
- Audiometry - This test really consists of two types of tests: air conduction and bone conduction testing. You will be in a soundproof booth or room and will be asked to raise your hand or push a button when you hear sounds.
Air conduction determines the softest sound you can hear through earphones at several different pitches. Bone conduction determines the softest sound you can hear by stimulating the inner ear directly (through a bone vibrator that is placed behind the ear).
None of these tests should be too uncomfortable and they shouldn't be painful at all, so don't worry. Afterward, the Audiologist will spend time explaining the results to you and what further services or referrals he recommends.
Depending on your audiologists finding, he may make referrals to other specialists. If your audiologist believes that other medical issues need to be ruled out as the cause of hearing loss or balance disorders, he may refer you to an ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor).
He may also refer you to a hearing aid specialist to fit you for more standard hearing aids or devices.