Audiology is a branch of science which deals with the study of hearing, balance and related disorders through tests and treatment through hearing aids.
The use of the terms "Audiology" and "Audiologist" in publications has been traced back only as far as 1946. The first US university course for audiologists was offered by Carhart at Northwestern University, in 1946 Audiology was born of hearing aid dispensers to address the hearing damage from World War II veterans.
The Audiology and Speech Pathology in India was started as a profession by a group of enthusiastic professionals like Dr. N Rathna, Dr. S Nikam, Mr. Ramesh Oza and Dr. Vijay Shah. The first Audiology & Speech Language Therapy program was started in 1966 at T.N.Medical College and BYL Nair Ch. Hospital in Mumbai. In the same year, the Government of India established All India Institute of Speech and Hearing which became the country's leading Institute in the field of communication disorders.
An audiologist is a healthcare professional specializing in identifying, diagnosing, treating and monitoring disorders of the auditory and vestibular system portions of the ear. Audiologists are trained to diagnose, manage and/or treat hearing or balance problems. After conducting various tests, they dispense hearing aids and recommend and map cochlear implants. They counsel families through a new diagnosis of hearing loss in infants, and help teach coping and compensation skills to late-deafened adults. They also help design and implement personal and industrial hearing safety programs, newborn hearing screening programs, school hearing screening programs, and provide special fitting ear plugs and other hearing protection devices to help prevent hearing loss. In addition, many audiologists work as auditory scientists in a research capacity. Audiologists have training in anatomy and physiology, hearing aids, cochlear implants, electrophysiology, acoustics, neurology, counseling and sign language.
Various Hearing Tests
* Audiogram: is a hearing test that is generally performed in a soundproof room using sophisticated, calibrated equipment. A trained professional, most commonly a certified audiologist, usually administers the test. Earphones are placed over the person's ears, and tones are presented to each ear, one at a time. The softest level at which the sounds can be heard is recorded.
*Tympanometry: is a common test that involves placing a gentle pressure probe in the ear. This test assesses the pressure in the middle ear, and it may help detect fluid, problems with the middle ear bones, and other conditions.
*Site Of Lesion Testing: Site of lesion testing involves the regular equipment used in an audiogram, with a variety of other tests to help determine where a problem lies. This kind of testing may involve:
• Comparing the hearing in one ear with the other
• Detecting small changes in signal intensity
• Testing ability to hear in the presence of noise
• Testing the ability to hear sentences placed in both ears at the same time
*BERA:Brainstem evoked response audiometry (BERA or ABR) involves sophisticated, computerized equipment. Sounds are placed in the ear, and the brainstem's response is recorded from electrodes (similar to electrocardiogram electrodes) that are taped to the patient's head. This testing is extremely helpful in:
• Distinguishing sensory (inner ear) from neural (nerve) causes of hearing loss
• Helping to localize problems in the brainstem auditory pathway
• Determining the ability to hear soft sounds, in selected cases
*Other Types Of Testing: A person experiencing ear noise (a condition called tinnitus) can be tested in several ways. Sometimes it is possible to measure the frequency and intensity of the tinnitus There are also tests that help determine whether it can be suppressed or masked.Since the inner ear is divided into hearing and balance sections that are related, balance system testing is often appropriate for people with sensorineural hearing loss . Such testing may be useful even in people who do not have obvious balance problems.
The most common balance tests are:
• Electronystagmography (ENG). ENG involves measuring eye movements and stimulating the body's vestibular system, which controls balance
• Computerized dynamic posturography (CDP). CDP tests overall balance function using a computerized testing platform. It provides invaluable information that is especially useful in combination with an ENG.
Tests Not Directly Related To HearingBecause of the complexity of the hearing system and the many things that may affect it, an evaluation of other parts of the body is often helpful. This usually involves blood tests and imaging studies. Imaging studies may include:
• A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to look at the inner ear nerves and brain
• A computed tomography (CT) scan to look at the bones of the ear
• Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), or occasionally angiography, which produces images of the blood vessels to the brain
• A SPECT or PET scan, which produces images of microscopic blood flow within the brain.
Speech and Hearing professionals like audiologists can find jobs with teaching and health care establishments. Several NGOs also offer good employments to these professionals. Audiologists conduct clinical activities with patients, are involved in speech & hearing research, dispense hearing aids and assistive listening devices and teach at schools and universities.
Audiologists work closely with government agencies, practicing physicians and hearing aid manufacturers. Subsequently an audiologist can also develop his / her own venture of health care or teaching institution or an NGO.
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