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Doctors of Audiology: Listening in a New Era

  May 04, 2016


By Michelle Cramer, AuD, CCC-A

What did you say? Could you repeat that? I can’t hear you.” Like the other four senses, hearing is an important ability in our lives. Sometimes, we take our ability to hear for granted and ignore it until the lack of hearing starts to really impact our quality of life.

According to fact sheets produced by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, over 36 million Americans have a mild to severe degree of hearing loss. The National Institute’s fact sheets also stated that 10 million Americans have suffered irreversible, noise-induced hearing loss, and 30 million more are exposed to dangerous noise each day. This means more Americans are being exposed to an environment that could cause a hearing loss daily, and they will need to find a solution.

At Mid America Audiology Group, our staff and licensed audiologists are dedicated to improving speech understanding and sound quality of life for patients. The mission of our practice is to serve the community by providing excellent hearing healthcare and customer service. We do this by making sure patient satisfaction comes first. Mid America strives to help patients with a hearing impairment reconnect to their world through education, quality service, and the most current digital technology available.

“We see a variety of patients that range from age 2 to 102, with the majority being over 60 years of age,” said Gregory Maag, MA, CCC-A, Director of Audiology and Owner of Mid America Audiology Group. “Every patient’s situation is unique, and our goal is to cater to their needs by finding a solution to improve their quality of life through improved hearing.” Patients must keep in mind that not all results from testing indicate a patient’s need for hearing aids. Mid America also offers products to prevent damage and conserve patients’ hearing. “We can offer patients different solutions to prevent as well as protect their hearing,” said Maag. “There are custom earplugs for musicians as well as the avid hunters. It’s a noisy world out there, and you must take charge of your own hearing health.”

What Is an Audiologist?
Audiologists complete a master’s or doctorate-level degree in audiology and a year of a supervised clinical fellowship program prior to obtaining both state licensure and national board certification. This requires seven to nine years of post-secondary education and four to six years of clinical training, which focuses on the medical, diagnostic, and rehabilitative aspects of hearing loss, balance disorders, and hearing aids. Audiologists must also pass a national standardized examination of core capabilities in diagnosis and management of hearing loss in order to become eligible for state licensure.

What Should I Expect During a Scheduled Appointment?
“From a simple, routine ear cleaning to disorders of hearing and balance, we see patients for a variety of reasons,” said Dr. Joe Hopper, Au.D., Doctor of Audiology at Mid America Audiology Group. “As professional doctors of audiology at Mid America, we run through a four-step process when we see a patient in order to diagnose their individual hearing and balance concerns.”

The first part of the process is an evaluation of the patient’s case history. After the evaluation, the audiologist runs through several tests to assess the patient’s hearing and speech-processing abilities. Not only are audiologists concerned with a patient’s ability to hear and process speech, but they are also trained to correctly diagnose and identify medical disorders of hearing and balance. If necessary, they can refer patients to other medical specialists, such as otolaryngologists, to treat different disorders and diseases affecting the ear.

“The first procedure we perform is otoscopy, which involves looking inside the ear canal and examining the eardrums,” said Dr. Hopper. “We are especially concerned with a clear ear canal so that sound is not obstructed by earwax.” Dr. Hopper continues, “The next procedure we perform is tympanometry to make sure there is no fluid, infection, or negative pressure in the middle ear space behind the eardrum. Then we test the patient’s acoustic reflex through lateral stimuli. This gives us diagnostic information regarding the functioning of the middle ear system. Finally, pure tone air and bone conduction testing, as well as a comprehensive audiological evaluation, which examines speech understanding, are completed. These tests examine the different frequencies of tones in the speech range, measuring the sensitivity of the patient’s hearing. Many patients will explain that they are able to hear a speech sound but cannot understand it. Our audiologists measure the patient’s ability to understand speech in an unamplified and amplified environment. Once these tests are performed, the audiologist is able to explain the patient’s hearing loss to the patient at that same appointment. What type of hearing loss is it? Are there other medical tests that need to be performed? Which of the speech frequencies is the patient unable to hear? How well can the patient understand speech? Our audiologists are able to recommend the most advanced products to improve the patient’s quality of life through amplification.”

Why Come to a Doctor of Audiology for Help?
Audiologists are extensively trained to evaluate and treat disorders of hearing and balance. They are able to act as a guide along their patient’s hearing journey, build personal rapport with each patient, and strive to improve the patient’s ability to hear in all situations. Hearing is just as important as your other senses because it allows you to socially interact with the world. It also can affect us physically, through the balance system, which could lead to safety concerns. Seeking a professional audiologist who can customize technology solutions and help effectively integrate speech comprehension could change your life.

Why Should You Not Leave Your Hearing Loss Untreated or Undiagnosed?
Recent studies published by the American Academy of Audiology indicate that untreated or undiagnosed hearing loss can have psychological effects as well. This means that individuals facing a hearing loss might experience depression, worry, anxiety, paranoia, and/or social isolation. Many do not consider the safety hazards associated with a hearing loss at home or in public. For example, if a patient is unable to hear an alarm going off at home or the siren of an emergency vehicle driving near them on the road, they are in serious danger.

An article by Katherine Griffin and Katherine Bouton published in April of 2015 in AARP magazine discussed a link between hearing loss and an increased risk for dementia in elderly individuals. Despite the hype around hearing loss in aged individuals, not all people over the age of 60 will have significant hearing loss. However, it is still very important to get your hearing checked no matter how old you are. Look at the different types of activities that are part of your lifestyle, and think about how these situations may affect your hearing. Even if you don’t have a hearing loss, it is important to establish a baseline of your hearing and learn to protect it in various situations. If an individual is proactive in keeping track of their hearing, it will be easier to tend to their hearing needs as time advances. This will allow them to keep up cognitively and socially in their lives.

Audiology Has Gotten Smarter
Hearing aid technology has grown tremendously over the past two decades and continues to do so with society’s hottest commodities. Smartphones and smartphone apps have become the new norm for helping us in our daily lives. Currently, there are hearing instruments on the market that can be synced up with your iPhone or Android device. It might seem silly to some to have this extra amenity to help your hearing, but in reality, there are several benefits paired with app-controlled hearing instruments. Some of the benefits include controlling your hearing aid volume from the palm of your hand; listening to music, videos, and calls from your smartphone with great quality; and tracking down a lost aid or a family member wearing a hearing aid.

In addition to this new combination of hearing instruments and smartphones, more new products are being produced each day to help improve the quality of your hearing. Some of these products include assisting patients suffering from tinnitus and other hearing diseases and disorders. The market for hearing technology continues to grow with a variety of manufacturers, keeping the price placed on these items at a competitive level. The major key to knowing what to buy is to talk with your audiologist and figure out what might work best for you.

Why Come to Mid America?
At Mid America Audiology group, the staff, audiologists, and doctors of audiology are dedicated to assessing and treating the specific needs of each patient. It is not about buying a hearing aid and placing it in a person’s ear. Even the most expensive hearing aids may not work for you if they are not professionally tailored by a licensed audiologist to your level of hearing loss and lifestyle needs. Our 30 years of experience ensure that patients will receive the best care possible. Helping patients reconnect with their world is our passion! 

We have vast experience matching patients with the best hearing aid options based on the results of their individual hearing tests. We use the most advanced fitting methods available to ensure that your devices are comfortable and provide you with maximum clarity. We absolutely love what we do! Bringing improved hearing and better communication to our patients’ lives is our passion. Seeing people reconnect with their families and loved ones is a tremendous pleasure for us. We strive to continue making such connections and are constantly motivated to do so by the joyful stories of all that our patients are experiencing through better hearing! Professional Hearing Care You Can Trust.

If you have concerns about your hearing, contact Mid America Audiology Group for an appointment at one of our eight locations in the Metro East area. Our main line is 1-888-531-6036 or visit www.midamericaaudiologygroup.com. Come see why patients love us. We have helped patients with their hearing healthcare needs for 30 years.
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May 04, 2016
Keywords:  Feature Story

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