Audiology refers to the branch of medicine dealing with hearing and balance-related disorders. Those working in the field of audiology are known as audiologists.
There are a number of different roles that an audiologist can undertake. Here are some primary roles and associated duties for audiologists. This is an indicative list and there are other duties that may be referred to audiologists.
When hearing loss is first suspected, the healthcare professional will suggest that the patient sees a diagnostician to confirm that an audiological problem exists. This audiologist will perform diagnostic tests on the patient and define the scope of the problem.
While adults can easily provide feedback on hearing loss, young children below the age of five are usually unreliable with respect to the history obtained. This means that the diagnostician must be exceptionally skilled and use evidence-based test procedures for hearing assessment in children, while making sure that they are cost-effective for the child’s family.
The diagnostician must have the relevant equipment to perform the tests as well as have a family-friendly set up where social information may be obtained in a controlled and easy manner. The audiologist needs to have the ability to comfort the child and put the parents at ease while dealing adeptly with the many questions that they will have.
The counselor will be part of the dynamics of the patient-family interaction all through the process. This audiologist gives them information about the diagnostic tests, the support systems available, possibilities in managing the hearing loss, and is also generally available when needed.
The results of the audiological assessment are conveyed by the counselor in layman’s terms to the patient and family. He will also recommend the best intervention possible. The counsellor needs to be able to maintain objectivity while handling sensitive issues. He must be non-judgmental and professional in demeanor.
Often the family will require counseling along with the patient in order to create a supportive environment at home. It is the counselor’s job to identify the needs of the patient and provide suggestions for solutions to them.
This role refers to the audiologist’s role as the individual case manager for the patient. Since the patient may have to receive medical care from a number of individual experts and different institutions, someone needs to coordinate everything and keep the facts recorded. This is the job of the audiological care coordinator.
The case manager will take the lead in the early stages of diagnosis to assess the actual problem, then determine the correct counselor, and subsequently recommend the right intervention. If the patient is a child, the case manager needs to empower the primary caregivers with knowledge about the situation they are faced with.
The audiological care coordinator will also help the medical professionals dealing with the patient stay updated about the patient’s progress and requirements. He will seek alternative services when there is a cost constraint and if the family has limited resources to deal with the problem. The case manager supports the family and the patient, enabling them to make the most informed decisions.
Since audiology is a relatively new field there are many avenues for research available. Some audiologists focus on understanding the functioning of the ear better, others try to figure out what causes hearing loss. These researchers focus on the medical angle related to the functioning of the ear.
More research is conducted on improving the appliances that allows patients with hearing loss to hear, while others focus on equipment that can more accurately test and diagnose audiological problems. Since technology keeps improving and new inventions come up constantly, there is plenty of scope in this field of research.
Research is also conducted in developing services that can help improve the quality of life for a person with hearing loss. Paediatric services may include ways to help improve speech recognition as well as responding to sound. Speech-language programs are developed and tested to check for efficacy in helping patients.
There is a fair amount of misinformation or outright ignorance when it comes to deafness in the regular school system. It is the job of an educational audiologist to spread the word among the educators. He will work primarily in the home and school setting of a patient in order to help improve the environment of a deaf child.
The educational audiologist will work with the school staff and teachers to teach them how to deal with hearing-challenged students. He will help improve the acoustics of the school building, enhance access to lessons for deaf children and evaluate their progress.
He will help the patient understand how technology can help ease his life by facilitating communication. An educational audiologist will also help the support system of the patient understand the social, emotional and cognitive needs of the child.