What's the Difference Between an Audiologist, ENT and Hearing Care Consultant?
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06/05/2021
what's the difference between an audiologist, ent and hearing care consultant

In Malaysia, not every hearing aid is prescribed by an audiologist. Some hearing aid providers are run by hearing care consultants or Ear, Nose, Throat (ENT) Consultant.  There are some differences and similarities between an Audiologist, ENT and a Hearing Care Consultant. Let’s find out what connects and differentiate them.

 

Who is an Audiologist?

An audiologist is a qualified hearing 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, tinnitus, or balance problems. 

 

The majority of audiologists in Malaysia have completed bachelor’s degrees in Audiology. There are also some other degrees among audiologists such as Master or doctorate PhD. Although these professionals tend to be university lecturers and researchers, rather than being active hearing health care practitioners. Since 1st July 2020, audiologists are regulated under the Allied Health Professions Act 2016 (AHPA). MANSA and MASH have been appointed by AHPA to be part of the Malaysian Allied Health Professions Council which helps in the registration of allied health practitioners, determination of the appropriate qualifications of allied health professions and the regulation of practice, ethics and professional conduct of registered allied health practitioners for audiologists in Malaysia. 


Role of Audiologist in Malaysia

  • Assess and manage children and adults with hearing loss
  • Dispense, manage, and rehabilitate hearing aids fitting, adjusting and maintaining hearing aids including performing hearing aid verification test (Real Ear Measurement)  
  • Treatment and management of tinnitus/ringing in the ear.
  • Be part of the team to assess candidacy for cochlear implants (CI). 
  • Establish and run Newborn hearing screening (NHS) programs in hospitals
  • They counsel families through a new diagnosis of hearing loss in infants, and help teach coping and compensation skills to late-deafened adults under the hearing habilitation/ rehabilitation programs. 
  • They provide special or custom-fitted earplugs and other hearing protection devices to help prevent noise-induced hearing loss. 
  • Few are trained to evaluate peripheral vestibular disorders originating from pathologies of the vestibular portion of the inner ear. They also provide assessment and treatment for certain vestibular and balance disorders.

 

Who is an ENT consultant?

An ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) or otorhinolaryngology, head and neck surgeon is a doctor who specializes in managing people with the ears, nose, throat diseases besides involving in managing head and neck disorders. ENT also treats people with salivary glands and neck tumours or growth as well as oral pathology. 

The main difference between ENTs and audiologists is that an ENT is a medical doctor specializing in treating ear, nose & throat problems, while an audiologist is a hearing care professional without a medical degree, but with an Audiology degree. 

 

Role of ENT Doctor in Managing Ear/ Hearing Disorders

ENTs are trained in performing various types of surgeries on the ears aiming to improve patients hearing and quality of life. Other than performing surgeries, ENT also do the following:

  1. Prescribe medication for hearing health
  2. Handle patients with conductive or mixed hearing losses such as middle ear effusion, impacted ear wax, otosclerosis, eardrum perforation etc.
  3. Treat people with sensorineural hearing loss especially pediatric age groups by performing cochlear implantation surgeries. 
  4. Manage hearing loss patients due to ear trauma, infection, and benign tumours
  5. Treat dizziness or vertigo related to the balance organ. 

Once ENTs perform surgery and prescribe necessary medications, they often refer patients to an audiologist for continued care, especially if hearing rehabilitation is part of the aftercare. In many cases, these patients need a prescription and fitting for hearing aids by audiologists and some may need help with redeveloping communication and language recognition skills due to hearing issues under speech-language pathologists especially for children. 

 

Who is a Hearing Care Consultant?

Hearing care consultants in Malaysia specifically work with people who have suffered hearing loss. They do not necessarily need any formal training from the institute to enter this field, but they have experience particularly received from the hearing aid manufacturers or hearing aid centres particularly responsible for the hearing aid sales and aftercare. 

 

Role of Hearing Care Consultant

  • Do basic hearing test for patients’ hearing
  • Explaining results to patients
  • Selling hearing aids to patients
  • Teaching patients how to care for hearing aids or other equipment

 

When Should You See an Audiologist or an ENT Doctor?

While an audiologist only deals with hearing, an ENT doctor treats patients for diseases or conditions of not only the ears but also the nose or throat. An audiologist focuses on hearing loss and related problems like tinnitus, hyperacusis, and many other conditions. ENT doctors generally treat hearing loss particularly related to medical ear conditions such as impacted wax,  Meniere’s disease and other ear issues.

If you have been experiencing difficulty hearing or understanding conversations, you would first visit an audiologist. He or she will conduct a hearing assessment to determine if you are experiencing hearing loss. If the audiologist detects the presence of a medical condition with your ears, then you would likely be referred to an ENT specialist. 

Audiologists do more than just providing hearing aids, fitting and programming of the devices, we also perform otoscopic examinations of the ear canal and eardrum, checking for ear infections or earwax (cerumen) build-up. On top of that, audiologists help to give counselling and hearing health related education for patients including their family members. This helps the patients to have smoother transitions for the first time hearing aid users. 

If you are experiencing pain or swelling in your ears, then you would want to see your medical doctor or go directly to an ENT, who is a specialist in this area. If the ENT doctor determines that you don’t have a disease or medical condition, but suspects that hearing loss could be the issue, then he or she would refer you to an audiologist. In Soundlife, we have worked very closely with ENT doctors and would make necessary referrals whichever problems arise. Your hearing can definitely be improved and we’re here to help. Contact us to gain back your confidence in hearing again