Frequently Asked Questions

What is an Audiologist?

Audiologists are independent healthcare providers who are specially trained in the science of the auditory and balance system. They diagnose and treat persons of all ages who have hearing and balance disorders. Some audiologists further specialize in specific diagnosis, treatments, or research in such areas as amplification, auditory processing disorders, cochlear implants, hearing conservation, pediatric assessment, or vestibular disorders. Audiologists hold advanced degrees in audiology such as the Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.), the Master of Science (M.S.) in Audiology, or the Master of Arts (M.A.) in Audiology.

What is a baseline hearing test?

A baseline hearing test is a basic hearing test performed by an audiologist. In a baseline hearing test, the audiologist determines the lowest volume level the person hears at various frequencies or pitches. This lowest level of hearing ability is referred to as a hearing threshold. Normal hearing thresholds range from 0 to 15 dB HL (decibels in Hearing Level) for school-aged children and 0 to 20 dB for adults.

Some adults are required to have a baseline hearing test when they begin employment in a noisy occupation. Each year afterwards, the employee has a follow-up heairng test to check for any progression of hearing loss that may be attributed to the noisy environment.

Children and adults are encouraged to have hearing tests periodically to help detect hearing loss, even when the person is not routinely exposed to excessive noise. Early detection can help prevent further hearing loss by alerting the patient to the progression and steps needed to prevent further damage. Many audiologists and physicians recommend baseline hearing checks every two or three years. However, annual hearing check ups are recommended for those who are exposed to potentially damaging loud noises: farmers, hunters, shooters, machinists, musicians, woodworkers, and carpenters.

Do I need a hearing or balance evaluation?

If you or a loved one is often asking “What?” or is having trouble with dizziness or balance, you should consider scheduling an evaluation with an audiologist. The audiologist will perform the evaluation and counsel you regarding the test results. Most importantly, the audiologist can help you reduce the problem or its impact. In some cases, the audiologists will work together with an ear, nose, and throat physician to evaluate and treat the hearing or balance problem.

Some insurance companies, such as Medicare, require a written physician referral prior to the audiology evaluation. Simply ask your physician or medical provider to give you a written referral for the audiology evaluation or contact your insurance company for directions.

What causes hearing loss?

There are many causes of hearing loss, some as simple as ear wax blockage and some as complex as degenerative neurological conditions. The best method to determine the cause of hearing loss is having an evaluation by an audiologist. If he or she determines the need for further medical evaluation, the audiologist will make a referral to an ear, nose, and throat physician (ENT or otolarynogologist).

Some hearing loss is caused by blockage in the outer ear from ear wax or infection. Other hearing loss may be caused by disorders of the middle ear space. An example of a common childhood middle ear disorder is otitis media (ear infection). In cases of permanent hearing loss, inner ear disorders are the most common cause. Inner ear hearing loss is referred to as sensorineural. It can have many causes, but common causes are noise damage, hereditary, medications, certain illnesses, and aging effects on the auditory system. See the Alabama Academy of Audiology web links page for more information on specific hearing disorders.

How can I prevent hearing loss?

Hearing conservation from noise exposure is probably the most important way to perserve your own hearing. Simply: turn it down and wear ear plugs. Disposable ear plugs or sound muffs are widely available at drug stores, hardware stores, hunting supply stores, and of course, from your audiologist. There are even special types available for musicians and hunters.

The next time you start up the lawn mower, plug in the shop vacuum, or go to the race track, remember to use ear plugs to save your hearing. It is never to late to start protecting your hearing!

Is there help available for hearing loss?

Yes! Hearing loss can be helped. Many people can be helped with hearing aids and assisitive devices such as telephone amplifiers. However, some people can benefit from surgery or medication. Your audiologist will discuss the most appropriate method of assistance for your specific hearing loss after reviewing your hearing evaluation results.

It is important to remember that hearing aids do not correct the hearing loss. Instead, hearing aids amplify the sound and therfore allow the ear to hear it more easily. Hearing aids need to be adjusted properly for the msot beneficial signal. There are currently many features from which to choose in hearing aids. Many current hearing aids utilize digital technology. Digital technology allows a more flexible signal that can be programmed effectively to best match the listener’s needs. Some hearing aids also have directional microphones which research indicates reduces background interference. Other hearing aids have multiple programs or memories that allow comfort in different listening environments by pushing a button.

Regardless of the features available from which to choose, it is important that the background, knowledge, and training of the person who is selecting and adjusting the hearing aids is considered. Audiologists have 6 to 8 years of college training and have advanced training in amplification and rehabilitation of the auditory system.

What causes balance problems or dizziness?

Determining the cause of dizziness is important so that it can be properly managed. Sometimes people become acutely or chronically dizzy due to physical changes or illness such as blood pressure changes or heart abnormalities. However, others become dizzy as a direct result of an abnormality within the balance mechanism in the inner ear, known as the vestibular system.

Your physician may refer you to an audiologist who specializes in vestibular evaluations. The audiologist will ask a complete case history aimed at helping to determine the specific tests that are necessary. In addition, the audiologist may perform a variety of physical tests to challenge your balance system. The goal of the case history and tests is to determine if there are underlying medical or physical conditions affecting the balance system that are causing the dizziness or balance problem.

Is there help available for balance problems or dizziness?

Yes! Most causes of dizziness can be managed. However, proper evaluation and diagnosis is required prior to determining the best treatment plan. Patients sometimes require medical treatment with medication or surgery and others require physical therapy to re-learn balance techniques. However, patients with benign positional paroxysmal vertigo (BPPV) may only require physical manipulation by a physician or audiologist who specializes in vestibular management. Your audiologist and physician will together decide which methods might be best for your specific needs.

How do I locate an Audiologist in Alabama?

It is easy to find an audiologist in your area of Alabama. There are many audiologists in Alabama. Some audiologists specialize in various populations, diagnostics, or treatments. To find one close to your location, please visit the “Find an Audiologist” Alabama Academy of Audiology link.

How do I make an appointment for an evaluation?

If you would like to make an appointment for a hearing or balance evaluation with an audiologist, simply locate an audiologist in your area using the Alabama Academy of Audiology link. Then, call the office and ask the receptionist for an appointment at your convenience. Be sure to inform the receptionist of the nature of your problem, so the appointment can be properly scheduled.

Hearing evaluations can be scheduled for people of all ages: birth through geriatrics. No one is ever too young or too old for a hearing evaluation!

Some insurance companies, such as Medicare, require a prior written referral from your physician or medical provider prior to the audiological evaluation. If you have questions about your insurance, call the insurance department of the audiology office for assistance or your insurance provider directly.