A transition is occurring right now—right in your audiologist’s office. Now is an exciting time to be an audiologist, and it’s an excellent time to be a patient of a skilled audiologist.
Audiologists are trained and licensed to evaluate, diagnose, and treat hearing loss and balance disorders. In the past, audiologists typically provided only the care indicated by the hearing loss or balance disorder. As medical professionals and researchers begin to better understand the connection between hearing loss and other chronic diseases, however, it is becoming more imperative for audiologists to work closely with the patient’s other medical care providers to ensure the best possible treatment is provided.
The numbers are shocking: According to studies conducted in 2018, one in two adults in the U.S. has a chronic medical condition, and one in four adults has more than one chronic condition. While lists of chronic conditions vary slightly depending on the organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has listed the following conditions as chronic medical conditions:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Cancer (breast, cervical, colorectal, gynecological, and skin)
- Chronic kidney disease
- Chronic lung disease
- Diabetes and pre-diabetes
- Heart disease and high blood pressure
- Tooth decay
You may be wondering how an audiologist, as a specialist in hearing loss and balance disorders, can assist in evaluating or treating these conditions. Research has shown that hearing loss can indicate the presence of other conditions, making it essential for audiologists to provide proper treatment for hearing loss and to evaluate the possible presence of another chronic condition.
After conducting a thorough audiological evaluation, your audiologist can determine whether any loss of auditory function is due to sensorineural impairment. Your audiologist is specially qualified to detect damage or disease in the inner ear, which can signal the presence of a chronic medical condition.
Your audiologist will also review your health history to determine whether any chronic conditions have been diagnosed in the past, or if symptoms indicate one may be present. The presence of more than one chronic condition is known as comorbidity, which is typically associated with worse health outcomes, increased health care costs, and more complex management and treatment. In some cases, the interaction of conditions can affect the course of both conditions. Your audiologist and other medical care professionals can determine whether your conditions have an underlying relationship.
The transition occurring right now is one in which audiologists are taking a more whole-person, or holistic, approach to patient care. As chronic conditions are evaluated, your audiologist can work closely with your primary medical care provider, such as a physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner.
As a specialist, your audiologist is in a unique position to provide in-depth information to your primary care provider regarding your hearing condition and inner ear functions. Audiologists are the only medical professionals trained to treat sensorineural hearing loss, making them an important member of your health care team. Improved hearing through proper treatment can also increase the efficacy of treatment provided for other chronic conditions because the patient is better able to understand and communicate with other health care providers.
The audiologist can also communicate the patient’s needs to the healthcare providers, ensuring more individualized care. Furthermore, they can alert the medical care provider to any effects of hearing loss that may affect the evaluation and diagnosis of or treatment for other chronic conditions.
Now is an exciting time for audiologists as they move to a more prominent role in medical teams and work to provide more whole-body care to their patients. To learn how your audiologist can provide this type of holistic support to you or your loved one, please contact us today.