By Courtney Parmley, Au.D., CCC-A and Joanna Capobianco, Au.D., CCC-A, Central Illinois Hearing & Balance Center

Approximately 20 percent of Americans report some degree of hearing loss. Hearing loss also ranks as the third most common chronic physical condition behind arthritis and heart disease. If you are someone who has been having hearing or ear concerns in general, you may be wondering where to go to ensure your concerns are being properly addressed — to an ENT physician or to an audiologist? Both medical specialists can provide insight into hearing loss but it is important to understand the differences between the two providers to help you determine where you should go to address your hearing concerns. The “best of both worlds” are the facilities in which these two providers work side-by-side to address these concerns for patients and provide treatment options. This way, patients are receiving unparalleled patient care within one medical practice.

Let’s start with the ENT physician, also known as an otolaryngologist. An ENT physician is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of ear, nose, and throat issues. They perform a variety of treatment and surgeries related to the ear, nose, throat, and related structures of the head and neck. ENT physicians are trained in both the medical and surgical treatment of hearing, ear infections, tinnitus, and balance disorders. Some of the more common medical and surgical treatments that ENT physicians perform on patients relating to the ears include treatment of otitis externa (swimmer’s ear), PE (pressure equalization) tube placement for recurrent ear infections, and management of eardrum perforations, to name a few. ENT physicians handle the medical side of hearing issues (i.e, hearing loss due to Meniere’s, hearing loss due to tumors or autoimmune disease), and provide medical management if warranted.

An audiologist is a professional who is educated and trained to diagnose and treat hearing and balance disorders for all age groups. Audiologists hold either a Doctorate in Audiology (Au.D.) degree or a Master’s degree in Audiology. Audiologists provide treatment such as hearing aids, assistive listening devices, aural rehabilitation, balance/vertigo assessment, and treatment as it relates to the ear. They will help determine if your hearing loss is a permanent issue or something that can be medically treated by an ENT physician. To put it simply, an audiologist is a hearing doctor that handles the non-medical side of hearing problems.

This article was originally published in the September issue of Healthy Cells Magazine. To see the original article, please click HERE.