Should I See an Audiologist or an ENT?

Benefits of an AudiologistIf you are experiencing problems hearing, or are just having problems with your ears in general, you know you need to see a doctor … but which one? Should you make an appointment with your primary care doctor, an Ear Nose and Throat Doctor (otolaryngologist) or an audiologist?

Understandably, it can be a bit confusing, since they all deal with the ears. Each one has their own specialty however, so let’s break it down for you:


Audiologists are commonly known as hearing doctors, and there’s a good reason for that. They predominantly deal with hearing loss and treatments for individuals with hearing loss. Audiology is the science of hearing, which is why patients seek out an audiologist when they are experiencing hearing difficulty.

Audiologists are also the doctors you will want to go to for hearing loss treatment. An audiologist has extensive training and education on the auditory system, with a specific training component on how to expertly fit and adjust hearing aids. They will have the equipment to accurately test your hearing ability. They will also be able to provide treatment solutions for the varying degrees of hearing loss you may experience.

Along with hearing loss treatment, audiologists are also able to provide treatment and testing for tinnitus, balance issues and ear wax impactions. Many audiology offices offer protective hearing devices as well; from custom made ear molds to digital ear protection, they are very involved in ways to protect your hearing BEFORE it leads to hearing loss.

Hearing loss often comes on gradually, and if you notice that you are having trouble hearing in your day to day situations, making an appointment with an audiologist is your best bet. However, if your hearing loss comes on suddenly, without any prior indication of hearing difficulty, an audiologist shouldn’t be your first stop. Call your primary care doctor instead.

Primary Care Doctors

As the name implies, primary care doctors are your primary source for any health-related concerns. As just mentioned, if your hearing loss comes on suddenly, it could be due to an underlying medical condition. Your primary care doctor can run tests to determine the cause of your hearing loss. If it is due to a medical condition, they have the knowledge and training to treat the condition appropriately.

Oftentimes, after the medical condition is being treated, your primary doctor will send you to either an audiologist or ENT. They can provide follow up treatment, depending on the best course of treatment.

Ear Nose and Throat Doctors (ENT)

Whereas an audiologist deals predominately with hearing loss issues, an ENT doctor specializes in disorders of the head and neck. ENT doctors are surgeons who frequently perform procedures such as ear tube surgery, tonsillectomies and sinus cavity surgeries. However, they also treat more common conditions such as earaches, sinusitis, tinnitus, ear wax impaction and swimmers ear.

ENT Doctors and audiologist oftentimes work hand in hand for the treatment of hearing loss.

Your audiologist might send you to an ENT doctor after an ear exam if they suspect you have a medical condition that could be causing your hearing loss, like an autoimmune disorder or meniere’s disease. Likewise, an ENT physician may send you to an audiologist for a comprehensive hearing test or if they determine that you could benefit from a hearing aid.

Where to Start?

Knowing the different specialties of each doctor can help you determine where to start seeking help. However, if your main complaint is a loss of hearing, your best bet is to start with an audiologist. They will give you a thorough hearing assessment along with an exam of your ears. Once they determine the cause and severity of your hearing loss, you are in a better position to know how to go about treatment.

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