Hearing Loss

What Should I Do For Hearing Loss?

If you think you have some hearing loss, you should see your doctor. Your primary care physician may refer you to a hearing specialist.

  • Otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat doctors) are specialists in ear problems, among other things.
  • Otology is a subspecialty of otolaryngology. Otologists have a special interest in and concentration on ear problems.
  • Neurotology is a further subspecialty of otology. Although the field is more than 30 years old, there are relatively few physicians with experience and/or fellowship training beyond otolaryngology residency who qualify as neurotologists. Neurotologists specialize in the ear, and are specially trained to treat diseases of the inner ear and ear-brain interface, and to perform skull base and intracranial surgery.
  • Otoneurologists are specialists whose background is in neurology and who have a special interest in disorders affecting hearing and balance. But their perspective and background is different from that of a neurotologist. They diagnose neurological problems related to hearing but do not perform surgery on the ear and related structures.

What Should I Expect From My Ear Doctor?

An ear doctor will want a complete history of the hearing problem. This will include information on:

  • When it started
  • How fast it progressed
  • Whether there were obviously related problems (illness, head injury, noise exposure etc.)
  • Whether other members of the family have hearing loss
  • Whether there have been ear infections

The ear doctor will also ask about general health because of the numerous health conditions that may cause hearing problems.

The ear doctor will also perform a physical examination. Ordinarily this includes a complete ear, nose, and throat examination. An otologist usually includes an informal hearing assessment with a tuning fork, which is a small metal instrument that the doctor taps and holds near the person’s ear. Other assessments of balance, sensation, and other functions also may be performed.

A hearing test (audiogram) will almost always be obtained. Depending upon the results of the history, physical examination, and hearing test, the doctor may order additional tests.

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