What is an audiologist?
Audiologists have either a Masters or Doctorate degree in Audiology and specialize in the prevention, identification, assessment, treatment and habilitation/rehabilitation of auditory and balance difficulties in children and adults.
An audiologist’s scope of clinical practice includes the provision of assessment, treatment, habilitation/rehabilitation and consultation services for:
- Auditory function
- Balance issues
- Tinnitus (ringing or buzz sound in the ears)
- Auditory processing disorders
- Cerumen (earwax) management
- Prescription and dispensing of hearing aids, cochlear and middle ear implants, as well as assistive listening and alerting devices
In Ontario, only audiologists and physicians are authorized to prescribe hearing aids. Audiologists are regulated by the College of Audiology and Speech Language Pathology of Ontario (CASLPO)
How do I know if I have a hearing loss?
Most of the time hearing problems begin gradually, without discomfort or pain. Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine whether you might have hearing loss:
- Do I often ask people to repeat themselves?
- Do I have trouble following conversations with more than two people?
- Do I have difficulty hearing what is said unless I'm facing the speaker?
- Does it sound like other people are mumbling or slurring their words?
- Do I struggle to hear in crowded places like restaurants, malls and meeting rooms?
- Do I have a hard time hearing women or children?
- Do I prefer the TV or radio volume louder than others?
- Do I experience ringing or buzzing in my ears?
If you answered yes to several of these questions, chances are you are experiencing hearing loss.
What are the most common causes of hearing loss?
The main causes of hearing loss include aging, excessive noise, infections and other middle ear conditions, genetics, viruses or diseases, head trauma, malformations of the ear, autoimmune inner ear disease and reactions to drugs or cancer treatment.
What are the different types of hearing loss?
There are three types of hearing loss:
Sensorineural: The most common type, it occurs when the inner ear hair cells are damaged and do not properly transmit auditory signals to the brain.
Conductive: Is typically the result of problems with the middle or outer ear.
Mixed: A combination of sensorineural and conductive.
Who treats hearing loss?
Audiologists are regulated health care professionals with a Masters or Doctorate degree in audiology (the study of hearing). Audiologists specialize in testing, evaluating and treating hearing loss, including the prescription and dispensing of hearing aids, cochlear and middle ear implants and assistive listening devices. Audiologists may also perform assessments and treatment for tinnitus, central auditory processing disorders and balance issues.
Hearing Instrument Practitioners earn a college diploma which trains them to test hearing, recommend and fit hearing aids, counsel hearing aid clients, and recommend the use of other assistive listening devices. In Ontario, all clients must have a prescription from an audiologist or a physician prior to being fitted with a hearing aid by a Hearing Instrument Specialist.
Otolaryngologists are physicians that specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of ear, nose, throat, head and neck disorders. They are also known as ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) doctors.
If I think I have a hearing loss, what should I do?
You should make an appointment with a hearing professional such as an audiologist for a consultation and hearing test. If necessary, the audiologist may recommend that you also see an ENT physician for a medical evaluation of your ears. You do not need a referral from your family doctor to make an appointment with an audiologist.
How does a hearing aid work?
At their most basic level, hearing aids are microphones that convert sound into electrical signals. An amplifier increases the strength of the signal, then a receiver converts it back to sound and channels it into the ear canal through a small tube or earmold. A battery is necessary to power the hearing aid and to enable amplification.
Can hearing aids restore hearing back to normal limits?
Except for cases of mild hearing loss, hearing aids cannot restore hearing to normal levels. However, hearing aids are designed to enable you to hear soft sounds that you couldn't hear before and prevent loud sounds from becoming uncomfortable for you. They are also designed to improve your ability to understand speech, even in noisy environments.
How well do hearing aids work in noisy environments?
While hearing aids cannot filter out all background noise, many are designed to reduce some types of background noise so that you can enjoy conversation and improve communication in places like restaurants, business meetings and social gatherings.
Can hearing aids improve my quality of life?
Research has shown that hearing aids play a significant factor in a person with hearing loss's social, emotional, psychological and physical well-being. Treatment of hearing loss has been shown to improve communication in relationships, ease in communication, earning power, the sense of control over your life, social participation and emotional stability.
How do I know which hearing aid will be best for me?
The first step is to meet with an audiologist for a hearing test and counselling on the best type of hearing aid that best meets your hearing and communication needs. There are several factors that will determine which hearing aid will be the right one for you. They include the nature and severity of your hearing loss, your lifestyle and the activities you regularly enjoy, your job, your eyesight and dexterity, and the size and shape of your ear canal.
Is there an adjustment period to wearing hearing aids?
While you should expect to notice obvious benefits immediately upon receiving your hearing aid, most people need an adjustment period of several months before becoming adjusted to and receiving the full benefit of wearing their hearing aids.
Will I need a hearing aid for both ears?
Hearing with two ears (called "binaural") is better than hearing with one. If you have hearing loss in only one ear, you may be fine with one hearing aid. Age- and noise-related hearing loss tend to affect both ears, but your hearing profile for each ear is probably different. If there is a loss in both ears, you will probably benefit more with a binaural solution. People who wear two hearing aids report a higher level of satisfaction than those who only wear one.
How much do hearing aids cost?
The price of a hearing aid will vary depending on the specific model and features you need, and how effective it is in various noise environments. As with many products, there are multiple levels of technology to consider, from entry to advanced. Your out-of-pocket expenses may range from approximately $1,000 to $3,000 or more for a single hearing aid depending on the features and technology level you and your audiologist select in order to address your hearing and communication needs.
Do hearing aids come with any type of guarantee?
All hearing aids Canadian Hearing Services come with a three-year factory warranty and a 90-day trial period.