What’s the Difference Between an Audiologist and an ENT?

audiologist at desk

What’s the Difference Between an Audiologist and an ENT?

Living with hearing loss is challenging. The condition can make it difficult to communicate with family and friends, making many patients feel isolated. People without hearing problems can become frustrated for having to constantly repeat themselves or feel their words have gone unheard, making those with hearing issues feel like they are a burden. Either circumstance can leave patients feeling further removed and disconnected from their social circles, which is why seeing an ENT or audiologist is crucial.

However, which professional do you see when dealing with hearing loss? Is an ear, nose, and throat doctor the right person, or is it best to visit a hearing specialist, an audiologist? The answer can get confusing. Still, it is vital to see the correct professional to get a diagnosis and treatment options as soon as possible and limit the psychological, social, and medical symptoms that can come with hearing loss.

Audiologist vs. ENT

An audiologist and an ear, nose, and throat specialist provide similar services but are not the same profession. Both professions can evaluate issues with the inner ear and ear canal. Additionally, both professionals can make diagnoses and present treatment plans. Still, the primary difference is the level of specialization. An audiologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss.

Unfortunately, knowing audiologists are specialists in hearing and ears does not always clear up who you should see for ear problems. For instance, hearing loss is the wheelhouse of audiologists, but if hearing loss is accompanied by other symptoms, such as pain, then an ENT doctor is likely a better choice.

What Is an ENT Doctor?

What is ENT? An ENT is an otolaryngologist commonly referred to as an ear, nose, and throat doctor. These medical professionals specialize in everything related to conditions of the ears, nose, and throat. Essentially, if you or your children are experiencing any symptoms in the head, neck, and ears, these doctors are responsible for diagnosing and treating you. Some of the areas of expertise for otolaryngologists include:

  • Thyroid 
  • Tonsils and adenoids 
  • Sinuses 
  • Larynx 
  • Mouth 
  • Ear tubes 
  • Ear surgeries 

Many ENTs will also have specializations in one or more areas. The common areas of specialization include:

  • Allergies 
  • Pediatrics 
  • Neurology 
  • Cosmetic surgery 
  • Reconstructive surgery 
  • Balance issues 
  • Sinus problems 
  • Cancer 

When To Book an Appointment With an ENT

ENTs are typically seen as referrals from your primary care physician or an audiologist; therefore, they are usually seen second. In most cases, an audiologist or other doctor will refer a patient to an ear, nose, and throat doctor when further diagnostic testing is needed or when an audiologist cannot identify the cause of hearing loss or symptoms.

Additionally, patients might visit ENTs when they experience sudden and dramatic hearing loss. Hearing loss is typically incremental. Profound and sudden hearing loss could result from an injury, infection, or illness. An ear, nose, and throat doctor can perform a medical evaluation. Finally, ENTs can perform surgeries and prescribe medications, which audiologists cannot.

What Is an Audiologist?

Audiologists are considered hearing healthcare professionals. They specialize in the treatment, diagnosis, and identification of issues in the vestibular and auditory areas of the ear. Most audiologists work with patients experiencing hearing loss, balance issues, and tinnitus. 

Additionally, audiologists can help patients learn to cope with hearing loss. They can provide advice and guidance about practical issues, such as finding compatible phones or tech for a patient’s hearing impairment. They may also counsel patient families to help them help their loved ones through emotionally challenging diagnoses.

When To Book an Appointment With an Audiologist

An audiologist should be the first healthcare professional you call when affected by hearing loss. An audiologist can help determine if hearing loss is a natural progression of aging or if it is something else. They can also remove wax buildup to provide some relief from hearing struggles.

However, an audiologist does not perform surgeries or prescribe drugs. Suppose your audiologist determines your hearing loss results from a more significant problem, such as injury or infection. In that case, they will likely refer you to an ear, nose, and throat specialist for a medical evaluation and treatment options.

Hearing Loss Experts

Audiologists and ENTs are qualified healthcare professionals. However, an audiologist is better suited to treating and diagnosing hearing loss and other hearing-related issues. An ear, nose, and throat doctor is typically the professional you visit after seeing an audiologist, only if they feel a referral is necessary.

If you or someone you love is experiencing hearing loss, an appointment with an audiologist should be your or their priority. Contact Happy Ears with any of your hearing loss concerns. If you are ready for a professional diagnosis, call and make an appointment today.