Picture this: after years of struggling with hearing loss, being embarrassed or withdrawing from social interactions because you just didn’t want to deal with it, you finally made the decision.
No more putting it off. No more excuses.
You finally put your health first.
You bit the bullet and have an appointment with an audiologist.
Congratulations! You’ve made the right decision.
But there’s just one thing: you have no idea what to expect at this appointment.
What’s the protocol? What will they do? What should I know? How long will it take? What can I expect?
The thought of going to an audiologist is not something you ever thought you’d be doing, and you wish there was someone to give you a heads up on things to know before you go.
As an audiologist for nearly 30 years in the Greater Charlotte, NC area, here are 8 things to get the most out of your audiologist visit:
1. Being unsure is completely normal: it’s completely normal to be unsure about your first visit with an audiologist. The best audiologists will have extraordinary staff that make you feel comfortable, communicate clearly, and take steps to make certain you feel welcome and at ease for your appointment.
2. Arrive on time: we’re all late sometimes – it happens. But unless something outside of your control prevented an on-time arrival, be there about 5 minutes early. If you’re running behind schedule, call the office and let them know.
3. Bring a list of any medications: some medications can impact your hearing. Your audiologist should rule this out as a part of their diagnostic process.
4. Family or Friends are welcome: having a support system is important to us all. Having others join you at your appointment is absolutely welcomed. Sometimes, having someone with us will help us remember the questions to ask, or the answers we’re given.
5. Diagnostic: your audiologist will get a medical case history from you, and will spend some time discussing your symptoms, challenges, understand your lifestyle and hearing goals, and work to gain a solid understanding of your goals. They want to learn what hearing outcomes matter most to you. A case history gives your audiologist a general picture of your hearing concerns before they hone their diagnosis with testing.
6. Testing: once you and your audiologist have discussed your history and goals, they will decide what panel of testing is best for your situation. None of these tests should be painful or pervasive. The most common tests are:
· Otoscopy is a simple visual examination of the outer ear canal or ear drum using a medical device called an otoscope.
· Tympanometry measures how well the tympanic membrane (ear drum) is moving. This test helps detect fluid in the middle ear, a perforated eardrum, or wax blocking the ear canal.
· Audiometry consists of air conduction and bone conduction testing. It’s done in a soundproof room, where you will raise your hand or push a button when you hear sounds.
· Air & Bone testing sends pure tones through every part of your ear to test your hearing across different frequencies. Bone conduction testing measures the sensitivity of your cochlea using a bone vibrator placed behind your ear.
· Speech recognition testing evaluates your ability to understand words and sentences spoken at a normal listening level. This helps determine the degree to which background noise interferes with your speech understanding - an important factor when considering your different treatment options.
· Speech & Noise – most discount hearing aid carriers don’t test this. It gives audiologists a lot of information about diagnostics and what’s going on with your hearing.
7. Identify type & cause of hearing loss – Is there hearing loss? Audiologists will rule out any underlying medical condition causing the hearing loss, and could refer to an ENT for medical management.
If it’s sensory neural – it can be solved with hearing aids. Hair cells in inner ear – sensorial.
If it’s neural – this references the path from the ear to the brain.
If it’s conductive – or wax build-up, your audiologist can take care of that, likely onsite.
If it’s a stiffened ear drum or broken bone – you may be referred out to a ENT for additional treatment
8. Next Steps: If you’re a candidate for hearing aids, your audiologist will discuss the different types and styles of hearing aids and help you choose the best model for your unique hearing needs.
· If you are choosing a custom-made style, your audiologist may also take impressions of your ears, so your hearing aid can be made to fit the shape of your ear.
· If the latest style hearing aid works best (typically a receiver in the canal (RIC) your audiologist may be able to fit you right there in their office. (Our office at Manna Audiology fits and customizes hearing aids, often same-day.)
Important Tip: having some questions written down to ask your audiologist is a GREAT idea.
If a hearing aid is recommended, many times the audiologist will be able to demonstrate new technology right there at your appointment.
This does 2 things:
· It gives the person a good idea of what hearing aids sound like
· It helps the audiologist see how the patient responds to sound, which guides the best outcome and solution for the patient
Now, you’re all set and can walk into that appointment with full knowledge of what to expect.
If you’re curious: there are a number of very important considerations when choosing the right audiologist.
We’ll cover this in a future blog post, but if you’re curious and can’t wait, please call our office at 704-321-4629. We will be happy to share everything we know on the topic of choosing the right audiologist for your lifestyle and needs.
About the Author:
Dr. Kurt D. Wright has been helping people hear better for over 20 years. He is the founding audiologist at Manna Audiology Hearing Center, a hearing clinic which services Charlotte, North Carolina and metro area. He earned his Doctor of Audiology Degree (Au.D.) from Salus University in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania and a Master’s degree in Augiology from Kent State University. He has a bachelor’s degree from Olivet Nazarene University in Kankakee, Illinois. Dr. Wright is a member of the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) as well as a Fellow of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA). The Audiological Resource Association (ARA) honored him as the recipient of the 2015 Outstanding Audiologist Award.
Dr. Wright has a passion for helping each Charlotte area patient achieve the best hearing possible.