From Hearing Loss to Hearing Aids: An Audiologist's Perspective
Access to information through the internet has made it easier for us to search topics in the privacy of our home. We can search for information on almost anything we’d like to know more about. The internet provides us an opportunity to do preliminary information gathering before we discuss the topic with our spouse, our children, or our doctor.
With this great resource, we are frequently overwhelmed with all the information available to us! This is often the case when searching for treatment of hearing loss. Although some types of hearing loss are medically treatable, the majority of untreated hearing loss does not fall into this category. There is no wax in the ears, no medicine, no operation, no reversal of noise exposure, and no way to avoid the inevitable family history that brings about this condition. Offers of cures for hearing loss are all over the internet and in the newspapers. Unfortunately, if treating hearing loss successfully were as easy as buying a device online or over the phone, then more individuals would have sought help for this devastating communication problem. In fact, only about 10% of those who could be helped by hearing aids actually wear them. This is because it is not the same as putting on a pair of reading glasses to help us see the smaller print. Hearing loss is a complicated problem because it affects all aspects of our lives: psychologically, socially, and financially.
The Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) is the best trained professional to choose when looking for treatment for non-medically treatable hearing loss. Although the physician may screen your hearing as part of an annual physical examination, only a Doctor of Audiology is uniquely qualified to perform a complete audiologic evaluation to determine the type and degree of hearing loss you may have, and provide you with options for treatment plans. The challenge is not just hearing loss. The challenge is your communication problem: Communicating at home, in a restaurant, in the car, at a sports event, in church, synagogue, theatre or on the telephone.
Doctors of Audiology are well trained and experienced to be your partner in the transition process of adjusting to amplification which may be hearing aids, assistive listening devices or a combination of both. The Audiology professional will also monitor you periodically to be sure you continue to receive benefit from your fitting. Audiologists are acutely aware that two individuals with the same amount of hearing loss may react very differently and with different consequences. Consequently, treatment involves treating the entire communication disorder, not just the selection of technology. Choices for hearing aids and/or assistive listening devices (T.V. Ears, wireless technologies, loop systems) should be made as a partnership between the Audiologist and the patient with his/her family support. Factors such as lifestyle, patient dexterity and financial choices are all considered. It is in the best interest of the patient for the Audiologist to think “outside the box” when it comes to the choices most appropriate for an individual. The relationship of patient with the Audiologist should be an ongoing one with patient satisfaction as the goal.
Leslie B. Papel, Au.D., Doctor of Audiology is in private practice in Pikesville. She is the current President of the Maryland Academy of Audiology.