Ears only a small part of our hearing
What are the basic roles of an audiologist?
What many people don’t realise is that an audiologist has to detect a very large range of different sites of pathology for the following reasons. Besides the brain, the ear is probably the most complicated organ in the body.
Also, the ear is only a small portion of what is necessary to hear. The ear captures the sound but what happens to that sound once it is captured is a very complicated process which involves many different areas of the brain. The hearing portion of the inner ear is also the smallest part. Most of it is made up of areas responsible for balance and positioning the body and head in space.
Therefore, the job of an audiologist starts with firstly detecting the hearing site of lesion across all age groups, from newborns to adults. This alone is made up of dozens of different tests depending on whether you are measuring the brain’s response to sounds, to basic beep tests. Once we have a basic idea of what pitched sounds can be heard and where the problem may lie, we then have to ascertain whether that hearing can adequately discern the sounds of human speech.
This is where we have to start tapping into how well the brain puts together the sounds to detect and recognise speech. We can then measure how efficient the brain is processing words in a sentence form, both on its own and when other distracting background noise is present.
Our job doesn’t just stop there – because the balance organ is attached to the inner ear, it is also the audiologist’s role to detect pathologies concerning balance and episodes of vertigo.
There are six basic areas of the balance system, each responsible for processing detection of movement in all directions and both balance organs are constantly talking to each other. Balance issues or vertigo is usually caused by damage to one of the balance organs and the difference in what the balance organs are detecting because of the damage to one of them. The audiologist’s role is to determine firstly whether the problem is neurological, or one of the balance organs, and if so which particular organ is damaged.