Health Now

Should You See An Audiologist?

Just like our vision, our hearing is one of the senses that many people take for granted, despite just under 10% of New Zealanders aged 15 years and older having some degree of hearing loss in at least one ear. This number rises with age, with approximately 49.5% of kiwi adults aged 75 years and over experiencing some degree of hearing loss.

So how do you know when it’s the right time to book in with an audiologist – is it when your hearing declines, when you’re hearing ringing or other odd sounds, or should hearing tests become a regular part of your healthcare repertoire even from a young age? Here’s what you should know about your hearing and seeing an audiologist.


What Does An Audiologist Do?

Audiologists are medical professionals that assess, diagnose, and treat problems and disorders of the ears, as well as the resulting communication impairments. Additionally, audiologists also support those with vertigo or balance issues, as our perception of balance is largely influenced by the fluid within our ears. Audiologists work with patients to protect and improve their hearing as well as their overall quality of life, enhancing their ability to talk to the ones they love and participate safely in the activities they enjoy. 

Audiologists work with people of all ages, from newborns to the elderly. In New Zealand, adults are recommended to have at least one hearing test every decade up to the age of 50 years, assuming there are no issues or difficulties with hearing. Over the age of 50 years, this increases to once every 5 years. With this said, if you experience any changes in your hearing, such as ringing in the ears, difficulty hearing, or dizziness, you should see an audiologist as soon as possible. Children should have their hearing screened at birth, and then again at regular intervals as they grow and develop. The Ministry of Health recommends that all children have a hearing test before starting school, and then every two years after that.


How Can An Audiologist Help You?

An audiologist has several roles in supporting a person’s ear health. They conduct hearing tests and comprehensive ear exams using a range of techniques and technologies, using their intricate knowledge of our auditory system to interpret test results and identify the root causes of hearing, ear or balance concerns. These may stem from various factors such as exposure to excessive noise, ear infections, glue ear, perforated eardrums, trapped ear wax, and in rare cases, conditions like an acoustic neuroma or osteosclerosis. 

Audiologists can help you improve your hearing and tinnitus (ear ringing sounds) by recommending, prescribing and fitting different hearing aids, ear plugs, and other assistive devices, and conducting follow-up consultations to assess their patients’ experience with the new hearing aid and adjust the volume of background noise if needed to enhance speech perception. 

Additionally, audiologists are trained to detect and monitor how other health conditions may contribute to specific ear conditions, such as neural disorders like Meniere’s disease, and diagnose, treat and manage various ear concerns like hearing loss, dizziness, vertigo, and tinnitus. Audiologists can also provide hearing loss prevention advice to at-risk individuals such as musicians, builders, pilots, childcare workers, and armed forces members. Ultimately, your audiologist will act as an important support system throughout your ear health journey, helping ensure that you receive the best care by making appropriate referrals if any unexpected issues arise during the ear exam.


When Should I See An Audiologist?

Even if you have no ear diseases, noticeable hearing difficulties or concerning symptoms, it is recommended that you have your hearing tested regularly, particularly if you have certain medical conditions, occupations or other circumstances that may put you at risk. For many people, changes to their hearing or symptoms of disease occur so slowly over time that it’s not immediately noticeable – and you don’t realise that you need audiology care or that your hearing isn’t as good as it could be or used to be. 

There are also many ear diseases that have few or no early symptoms and can develop at any age, and having your hearing assessed periodically means that any changes can be detected early – and the best management techniques can be implemented.

If you’re currently having symptoms such as ear pain, recurrent ear infections, a sudden change to your hearing or unusual ear discharge that doesn’t have an obvious cause, this is also a good indication that it’s time to make an appointment with your audiologist.


What To Expect At Your Audiologist Appointment

During your appointment, your audiologist will typically:

  • Start with a consultation: this includes asking questions about your hearing, medical history and overall ear health. This includes any symptoms you may have noticed, such as ringing in the ears or difficulty hearing in certain situations. 
  • Perform a hearing test: this is a series of tests that may include pure-tone audiometry, speech audiometry, and tympanometry. Pure-tone audiometry involves wearing headphones and listening to different pitches and volumes of sounds. Speech audiometry tests your ability to understand speech at different volumes. Tympanometry tests the movement of the eardrum in response to changes in air pressure.
  • Examine your ear: your audiologist may use an otoscope to examine your ear canal and eardrum. This is done to check for any blockages, infections, or other abnormalities that may be affecting your hearing.
  • Discuss your results: after completing the hearing tests and examining your ear, the audiologist will discuss the results with you. They will explain what the results mean and how they relate to your hearing ability.
  • Make any diagnoses: based on the test results and examination, your audiologist may diagnose you with things like hearing loss, tinnitus, or an ear infection.
  • Recommend treatments: if any issues are identified, your audiologist will discuss treatment options with you. This could include hearing aids, medication, or surgery. The audiologist will explain the benefits and potential risks of each option and help you decide which is best for your needs.
  • Follow-up appointments: if you require further treatment or monitoring, the audiologist will schedule follow-up appointments with you. These appointments may involve additional hearing tests or ear examinations.

Don’t Delay Your Audiology Appointment Due To Costs

While it’s easy to state the various long-term health benefits of regular audiology assessment, the reality is that many kiwis don’t have funds available to immediately book themselves in without a second thought – let alone the rest of their families. This is where HealthNow comes in.

HealthNow is an intuitive app on your smartphone that is used to spread the cost of your audiology appointments and any associated products purchased from the clinic over up to twelve weeks. This means you only pay a fraction of the total cost on the day you see your hearing professional. The HealthNow service is completely free for health consumers with no fees or interest. Your audiologist gets paid in full on the day, while you pay your bill off over the number of weeks you select at the time of purchase.

HealthNow also has a specifically-designed health wallet to put away money safely to cover the costs of any medical or health-related appointments, services and products, meaning that you can start putting money away now to help take the pressure off the expenses – particularly if you’ve been experiencing recurring ear aches, ear ringing, or other changes in your hearing. You choose the amount and frequency that you’d like to contribute, and others can also contribute to your health wallet, from family members who want to help you look after your health, to employers as part of employee wellness programs or as a much-desired alternative to restrictive private health insurance. Once the money is in your wallet, it’s yours in full to spend any time, on any health-related cost with HealthNow, and can be used for yourself or any other family member or loved one.


Get Started With HealthNow Today

Getting started with HealthNow is free and easy. Download the app and follow the instructions to set up your account. You can also check out HealthNow’s full benefits and features, and see how it can help ease some of the financial stress off your recovery from any hearing issues or ear pain.

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