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What is the Difference Between an Audiologist and an ENT

Your hearing is a sophisticated sense, which can make it essential that you know which hearing specialist to seek care from when there is a hearing problem like hearing loss. Two of the primary types of hearing health care specialist you will encounter during your search for help are audiologists and ear, nose, and throat doctors (ENT)—also called otolaryngologists.

Understanding the difference between an audiologist and an ENT can help you know which hearing specialist you should turn. In short, an audiologist has the training to take care of hearing disorders such as sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus with medical devices like hearing aids. An ENT works more with medical intervention when the ears, nose, or throat have an issue, performing specialized surgery to alleviate conductive hearing loss and infections.

To help clarify further differences between audiologists and ENTs, your local hearing health care professionals are here to help.

Audiologist vs. ENT

One of the main differences between an audiologist and an ENT is their level of education. Along with that, these hearing health care professionals provide different services. The following identifies the knowledge and services of an audiologist versus that of an ENT.

Audiologist Knowledge and Skills

An audiologist is a licensed hearing healthcare professional. This person specializes in diagnosing and treating hearing loss and balance disorders. Some audiologists have completed a doctor of audiology degree (Au.D.), but bachelors of audiology are more common, though now upcoming audiologists need to complete at least a masters of audiology. There are also some other doctoral degrees among audiologists such as Ph.D., and Sc.D., though these professionals tend to be teachers and researchers, rather than active hearing health care practitioners.

An audiologist can perform the following services:

  • Hearing exams to diagnose hearing loss
  • Fitting, adjusting and maintaining hearing aids
  • Treating balance disorders
  • Treatment and management of tinnitus
  • Manage hearing and speech rehabilitation programs

Audiologists have had extensive training in sound reproduction and studied human auditory and vestibular systems, making them perfect for anyone needing chronic or acute hearing care.

Otolaryngologist—ENT Knowledge and Skills

An ENT or otolaryngologist is a physician who has achieved a doctorate in medicine, making them medical doctors who have specialized in caring for the ears, nose, and throat. The main difference between ENTs and audiologists is that an ENT is a medical ear doctor, while an audiologist is a professional hearing doctor without a medical degree.

ENTs are trained in performing surgery on the ears, nose, and throat. They can also prescribe medication. They usually handle conductive hearing loss issues in adults and children with devices such as cochlear implants since conductive hearing loss affects the outer or middle ear. Audiologists work on sensorineural hearing loss, which affects the inner ear. Other conditions ENTs treat are hearing loss due to ear trauma, infection, and benign tumors.

Once ENTs perform surgery and prescribe necessary medications, they often refer patients to an audiologist for continued care, especially if rehabilitation is part of the aftercare. In many cases, these patients need a prescription and fitting for a hearing aid. Patients may also need help with redeveloping communication and language recognition skills due to hearing issues.

Deciding Which Type Of Hearing Specialist Is Best for You

It can be difficult to know which doctor is best for your hearing issues, so give your local doctor of audiology at Hearing & Balance Doctors a call. We can schedule a consultation to review the symptoms you’re experiencing to determine which healthcare professional is best for you and refer you to an ENT if needed.

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