Audiologist vs. ENT: What’s the Difference?

by | Sep 25, 2023 | Ear, Nose and Throat

If you’re experiencing difficulties with your ears, such as ringing, pain, hearing loss, or balance issues, you’re probably wondering if you should see an audiologist or otolaryngologist/ENT doctor in Los Angeles. You are not alone. Each year, millions of people experience tinnitus, hearing loss, vertigo, and various other ear disorders that impact their ability to communicate, sleep, eat, and function at home, school, or work. Severe cases can lead to depression, anxiety, and stress.

Occasional and mild hearing and ear issues eventually subside without medical attention, yet many others don’t. For symptoms that persist, worsen, or interfere with other aspects of your health and life, it’s best to seek out professional medical care from the right type of medical specialist.

To make it easier for you to know when to see an audiologist or ENT, continue reading to learn the differences between these professionals and more.

  1. What Is an Audiologist?
  2. Types of Audiology Treatments
  3. What’s an ENT?
  4. Types of ENT Treatments
  5. Audiologist vs. ENT
  6. When Should I See an ENT?

What Is an Audiologist?

Audiologists are trained hearing specialists who diagnose and provide solutions for hearing issues that are not caused by medical problems (i.e. hearing aids). An audiologist is a medical provider you should see when you experience hearing loss and other hearing disturbances.. An audiologist offers sound therapy and assistive listening devices like hearing aids to help counteract the effects of any hearing disturbances.

Types of Audiology Treatments

Audiologists see patients of all ages suffering from hearing disorders. Audiology treatments vary by the cause. To address semi-permanent to permanent hearing loss, hearing aids and cochlear implants are recommended. These devices require patients to undergo fitting and calibration for hearing aids that amplify sounds and reduce unwanted noises to improve their ability to hear. Listening aids like specialty phones, apps, FM systems, and hearing loops are audiology devices used to treat certain types of hearing loss disorders.

Cochlear implants are an advanced type of assistive hearing device that amplifies sounds to higher levels than traditional hearing aids and are often recommended to patients with hearing loss that is not treatable with hearing aids. Unlike conventional hearing aids which vary in features, styles and can be worn discreetly inside the ear or behind the ear, cochlear implants are surgically implanted by a neuro-otologist (specialized ENT). Cochlear implants and hearing aids don’t work for everyone. Sometimes, surgical procedures for bone-anchored systems are the most suitable treatment for patients with certain or multiple hearing and ear problems.

Auditory rehabilitation is often recommended in addition to hearing aids and cochlear implants to help the brain adjust to the way it processes sounds. This type of auditory training varies in intensity and often includes home-based and occupational or clinical exercises to improve communication skills.

What’s an ENT?

ENT physicians are also called otolaryngologists. They are medical doctors/surgeons who perform a variety of medical and surgical procedures for various ear disorders that involve the anatomical structures of the ear, nose, and throat, such as ear infections, trauma, or benign tumors.

Common medical conditions that benefit from ENT treatment include:

  • Sinusitis
  • Nose infections and injuries
  • Ear infections 
  • Ménière’s disease
  • Vertigo
  • Fused inner-ear bones
  • Head and neck pain
  • Speech and swallowing disorders
  • Tumors
  • Tonsillitis
  • Perforated ear drum

ENT doctors in Los Angeles are who you should see when dealing with hearing and balance issues that are medically related to a physical cause.

Types of ENT Treatments

Temporary hearing loss is caused by changes in the outer or middle inner ear structures. Eardrum perforation, earwax buildup, and fluid retention in the middle ear, usually after an ear infection and certain upper respiratory ailments, like colds, sinus infections, etc. are the most common culprits of conductive hearing loss. Diagnosis and treatment by an ear, nose, and throat or ENT doctor in Los Angeles is necessary for hearing and balance disorders.

otolaryngologist/ENT doctor in Los Angeles

To diagnose patients, ENT doctors in Los Angeles perform a visual examination of the ear using an otoscope or microscope. Redness, fluid, and eardrum irregularities are often signs of infection and are often treatable with a special cleaning, ear drops, or antibiotics. If hearing loss, tinnitus, or other auditory disturbances are suspected, additional diagnostic tests to check the severity of hearing loss, ear pressure, and eustachian tube function are necessary for an official diagnosis and treatment. These tests are usually performed by an audiologist.  ENT treatments include medical procedures, medications, immunotherapy, and surgery.

Medical procedures like special ear cleanings remove ear wax or foreign objects from the ear that prevent the auditory system from functioning properly.

Surgical ENT treatments are often recommended when initial treatment solutions fail to provide noticeable improvements to the patient’s condition. Many ear and hearing problems are caused by infections, fluid, abnormal bone tissues and other abnormal structures.

Balloon Sinuplasty and Eustachian Tube Dilation is a minimally invasive procedure performed under local in the office to address ear drainage and congestion problems.

Functional endoscopic sinus surgery is an outpatient procedure that removes abnormal tissues that block or restrict normal airflow and mucus drainage from the maxillary, ethmoid, frontal or sphenoid sinuses. Endoscopic sinus surgery is also used to correct past sinus surgeries and procedures to prevent future infections and drainage problems.

Ear tubes are surgically implanted tubes placed in the ear drum that help equalize pressure inside the ear drum or middle ear and drain fluid. These special tubes are highly effective at treating hearing loss issues due to barotrauma and fluid accumulation.

Septoplasty corrects septum deviations commonly cause sinus infections, nasal congestion, sleep disorders, and more. This type of surgery is minimally invasive and routinely performed by the CV/ENT Surgical Group doctors in Los Angeles. Septoplasty patients recover shortly after surgery and enjoy long-term relief from nasal congestion and discomfort.

Audiologist vs. ENT

Keep in mind that ENT doctors in Los Angeles are the experts on the ear and offer various medical services and procedures, not all of them are similar. While both types of professionals can confidently diagnose hearing and ear dysfunction, ENT specialists deal with common ear conditions like tinnitus, balance issues, and infections that originate from anatomical irregularities and medical conditions. Audiologists focus more on symptoms that cause hearing loss, disturbances, and unusual noises via hearing aids or other devices.

When Should I See an ENT?

If you suspect your ear symptoms, i.e., sinusitis, dizziness, tinnitus, ear infection, or swallowing difficulties are due to an underlying medical condition or you’ve been referred by an audiologist, you’ll undergo a medical evaluation that includes an ear exam and additional tests to rule out various medical disorders and diseases that affect the head, neck, and throat. Treatment may involve medication, nonsurgical or minimally invasive ENT procedures, surgery, or a combination.

Key Takeaways

Knowing when to see an audiologist or ENT doctor in Los Angeles saves time and ensures timely treatment. Scheduling a hearing test with an ENT or audiologist at CV/ENT Surgical Group is a good starting point to identify potential causes to help guide your next steps in getting proper medical care.

Call 818-986-1200 to schedule a medical ear exam with an ENT doctor in Los Angeles.