It’s a good bet that you had your hearing tested as a child. It’s probably also likely it’s been a while since you had a hearing test as an adult. Audiologists are professionals that test your hearing and assess any medical problems involving the inner and middle ear. Here are some frequently asked questions about audiologists.

1. What does an audiologist do?

Audiologists use a number of special tools to test your hearing ability, check for balance disorders, auditory nerve function, infections and more. Hearing loss can result from several issues and not all hearing loss is treated with hearing aids. An audiologist has the education and training to identify why there may be hearing loss and take steps to treat the problem.

Frequently, audiologists see patients with conductive or sensorineural hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss means the sound is not getting to the auditory nerves and often is due to some type of blockage. It can be corrected medically or with surgery. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is nerve damage and cannot be medically corrected. It’s commonly due to aging, heredity, noise exposure or illness. Hearing aids are an important tool to help those with sensorineural hearing loss.

2. What happens at a hearing test appointment?

Just as you have regular annual checks of your eyesight, it’s a good idea to have regular hearing tests during your late 50s and beyond. Your audiologist begins the appointment with a consultation to discuss any hearing issues you may have and to take your medical history. Next comes a physical examination of your ears to check for any infections, fluids, blockages or other problems. The audiologist also examines your eardrums. Next, comes several tests to measure your hearing. These tests determine how well you hear sound at certain volumes and different pitches. After these tests, your audiologist shows you a chart of the results and discusses any hearing loss. If you do have hearing loss, your audiologist will help you determine what type and style of hearing aids are right for you and begin that process.

3. How do I find the right audiologist?

Asking for referrals is a good start. Whether it’s your primary care physician, your dentist, a relative, neighbor or a friend, there’s a good chance someone will be able to recommend an audiologist. You’ll also want to check with your medical insurance company because many cover the initial hearing tests. The internet also offers a wealth of information about hearing loss and how to choose the right audiologist. Check out the websites of several local audiology offices and make some calls to find out more information.

It seems the older we get, the more medical professionals we have in our lives. This is a good thing! Adding an annual or biennial hearing test to your list of to-dos provides valuable information about your hearing, even if you’re not experiencing any problems. These frequently asked questions about audiologists will put you on the right track to find a local professional for an appointment.