According to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are about 13,300 audiologists operating in the United States. While audiologists find themselves employed at several different types of facilities, hearing centers are among the most common.
Hearing centers, as the name might suggest, are places where people can go to receive hearing tests and treatments that will help improve their hearing. Currently, about 15 percent of adults report having hearing difficulties. As a result, many new hearing centers open with each passing year.
Audiologists are among the most qualified individuals to address tinnitus and other common hearing issues. These individuals have received a formal education, certification, and are familiar with the hearing treatments that have been proven to be the most effective. They are also qualified to properly administer a hearing test—following the test, finding the hearing treatment that best meets your needs should be much easier.
In this article, we will discuss some of the many different services that your local hearing center may provide. Each of these services is designed to help ensure people are hearing at their very best and to potentially increase their quality of life. By understanding which services are likely available, you’ll be able to determine if a trip to a hearing center is right for you.
Hearing Evaluations (Hearing Tests)
Upon your visit to a hearing center, the first thing you’ll probably be asked to do is undergo a series of hearing tests. These tests, which usually take about 60-90 minutes to fully complete, examine multiple different aspects of how you hear. They’ll look at things such as the tones and pitches you can hear, the volumes you are capable of hearing, and whether the hearing between your left and right ears is symmetrical.
Audiometric testing, for example, exposes the listener to a range of hearing frequencies in order to determine if they can hear ordinary conversations. Tympanometry, another type of hearing examination, evaluates the health of the middle ear (which is where the crucial eardrum is located). Your audiologist may also ask a series of questions that will help them recognize the underlying cause of your hearing issues. Once these tests are completed, they will recommend an appropriate treatment plan.
Tinnitus is an incredibly common hearing issue that, contrary to popular belief, can affect people of all ages. Individuals who are suffering from tinnitus will regularly hear buzzing, ringing, and other types of noises, despite the fact that there is no external source making these noises. Managing tinnitus will be incredibly important because tinnitus is often at the core of other hearing issues.
If you are one of the roughly 12 percent of adults who experience tinnitus, a hearing center may be able to help you. In fact, some of the best hearing centers even use a tinnitus-centric approach to treatment. Some common tinnitus treatments include Oticon Tinnitus SoundSupport, Widex Zen Tinnitus Treatment, and Tinnitus Retraining Therapy. Your audiologists may also be able to help you with (or at least make referrals) some of the complications that come with tinnitus, such as sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression.
Hyperacusis is a hearing condition that causes ordinary people to perceive ordinary sounds (such as a running faucet) as “unbearably loud.” While this condition affects less than 1 percent of the population, it is one that needs to be taken very seriously. Untreated hyperacusis can cause seizures, balance issues, and various other challenges.
Hyperacusis treatment will usually involve trying to “reset” the way the center of the brain perceives (and reacts) to volume. It is a very personal condition that often requires customized treatment plans. While some people with hyperacusis will purchase earplugs or avoid interactions with others, the treatments offered by audiologists are much more permanent.
Hearing Aid Assistance and Live Speech Mapping
Many people require hearing aids in order to hear at their absolute best. However, not all hearing aids are created equally. The hearing aid that makes the most sense for you will depend on the severity of your hearing loss, the symmetry of the hearing loss, and whether you desire to have any special tech features.
Today’s hearing aids include Bluetooth technology, smartphone technology, and many other modern functions. Your audiologist will also help you with a process known as live speech mapping. Live speech mapping makes it easier for people to see the benefits of owning hearing aids and, ultimately, find the hearing aid that is a perfect fit.
Earwax (Cerumen) Management
Excessive earwax is one of the many reasons you may currently be experiencing hearing challenges. Some people naturally produce more earwax (which is also known as cerumen) than others, which will require cleaning and removal. A qualified audiologist will help you make sure your earwax is safely removed without causing any damage to your inner ear canal.
While a trip to your local hearing center can be incredibly productive, you may require additional assistance outside of your visit. For example, if your hearing aids begin to experience difficulties or stop working, you will want someone who can help fix them. You may also have questions about your tinnitus or other hearing issues. Most hearing centers will offer some support over the phone. Many will even be willing to make house calls, for an additional cost.
One of the most common questions people have is, “Does my insurance cover an audiologist visit?” The answer to this question, as you might expect, will depend on many different things. Some insurance policies are much more extensive than others, meaning that you may need to cover some of the expenses on your own. Fortunately, many top hearing centers offer financial assistance, using programs such as CareCredit.
Hearing centers can help improve the way you hear and experience the world. They offer many different services and can treat many different types of hearing issues (such as tinnitus). If you have recently had difficulties with hearing, scheduling an appointment at a hearing center may be in your best interest.