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Can you hear me now?

Jul 15, 2021, 10:00 AM
When a patient recognizes their hearing loss and seeks diagnosis and help, an audiologist may be the first stop.

Hearing loss can impact a person’s quality of life, causing people to feel isolated and out of touch, even at the dinner table.

When a patient recognizes their hearing loss and seeks diagnosis and help, an audiologist may be the first stop. Recognition of hearing problems is the first step and often it’s a family member who understands the issue first, said Mallorie Smith, Au.D., an audiologist with Skagit Regional Health.

Audiologist with patient

“Family may see a person turning one ear towards them, leaning in to get closer or cupping one ear because they can’t hear things,” Smith said. “Communication becomes difficult because they are not understanding as well as they used to.”

The audiologist performs an evaluation, looking at the anatomy of the ears, looking closely at the ear drums and performing tests in a sound-proof booth to measure a patient’s ability to hear certain tones.

If there are medical concerns indicated in the evaluation, such as an infection or obstruction, the patient is referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat provider.

If there is a hearing loss with no medical issue, the patient is a candidate for hearing aids. It can take several years for a patient to make the decision to get hearing aids, but, when they move forward, they see an amazing improvement in quality of life, Smith said.

“There is a stigma that hearing aids are something only old people wear,” she said. “Once the patient has them, their quality of life improves so much and they have confidence in knowing they can participate in activities and be part of the conversation at the dinner table. They can hear the birds or their cat purr. They again have enjoyment of normal, routine things that they were withdrawn from because of their hearing loss.”

Today’s hearing aids are “smart,” small, personalized to the patient’s needs, rechargeable and typically have Bluetooth wireless technology as a standard feature.

In addition to hearing loss, audiologists and ENT providers also work with patients who are experiencing dizziness. The vestibular system of the inner ear is responsible for balance, perceiving movement and sending messages to the body. If the messages are conflicting, it can cause dizziness. Tests, such as videonystagmography (VNG) can be used to diagnose a problem with the vestibular system.

“Helping patients with dizziness is what I love the most,” Smith said. “It’s like a giant puzzle.”

Another common problem is vertigo or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), when calcium crystals within the ear become dislodged and cause brief moments of dizziness. Treatment by an audiologist or physical therapist may include a series of head and body movements to get the crystals back where they belong, Smith said.

“The ears are designed to help with movement and balance,” she said. “It can be a journey to explore the symptoms and figure out why a person is having a problem and bring them relief.”

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Last post : 09/23/2021

Can you hear me now?

Jul 15, 2021, 10:00 AM
When a patient recognizes their hearing loss and seeks diagnosis and help, an audiologist may be the first stop.

Hearing loss can impact a person’s quality of life, causing people to feel isolated and out of touch, even at the dinner table.

When a patient recognizes their hearing loss and seeks diagnosis and help, an audiologist may be the first stop. Recognition of hearing problems is the first step and often it’s a family member who understands the issue first, said Mallorie Smith, Au.D., an audiologist with Skagit Regional Health.

Audiologist with patient

“Family may see a person turning one ear towards them, leaning in to get closer or cupping one ear because they can’t hear things,” Smith said. “Communication becomes difficult because they are not understanding as well as they used to.”

The audiologist performs an evaluation, looking at the anatomy of the ears, looking closely at the ear drums and performing tests in a sound-proof booth to measure a patient’s ability to hear certain tones.

If there are medical concerns indicated in the evaluation, such as an infection or obstruction, the patient is referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat provider.

If there is a hearing loss with no medical issue, the patient is a candidate for hearing aids. It can take several years for a patient to make the decision to get hearing aids, but, when they move forward, they see an amazing improvement in quality of life, Smith said.

“There is a stigma that hearing aids are something only old people wear,” she said. “Once the patient has them, their quality of life improves so much and they have confidence in knowing they can participate in activities and be part of the conversation at the dinner table. They can hear the birds or their cat purr. They again have enjoyment of normal, routine things that they were withdrawn from because of their hearing loss.”

Today’s hearing aids are “smart,” small, personalized to the patient’s needs, rechargeable and typically have Bluetooth wireless technology as a standard feature.

In addition to hearing loss, audiologists and ENT providers also work with patients who are experiencing dizziness. The vestibular system of the inner ear is responsible for balance, perceiving movement and sending messages to the body. If the messages are conflicting, it can cause dizziness. Tests, such as videonystagmography (VNG) can be used to diagnose a problem with the vestibular system.

“Helping patients with dizziness is what I love the most,” Smith said. “It’s like a giant puzzle.”

Another common problem is vertigo or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), when calcium crystals within the ear become dislodged and cause brief moments of dizziness. Treatment by an audiologist or physical therapist may include a series of head and body movements to get the crystals back where they belong, Smith said.

“The ears are designed to help with movement and balance,” she said. “It can be a journey to explore the symptoms and figure out why a person is having a problem and bring them relief.”