Discomfort in your ear, nose and throat or worsened hearing might require you to seek help from a physician, but who do you need, an ENT or an audiologist? What are the differences and similarities between them?
What are audiologists and ENTs
For most of your benign hearing issues, or any newly arise problems, consulting with an audiologist seems the most suitable. They are usually primary care doctors who are trained to diagnose and detect illnesses such as tinnitus, hyperacusis, misophonia, or other common hearing afflictions, additionally, since most audiologists would have chosen one of these symptoms to specialize in, they are in excellent position to help.
ENTs, originally called otolaryngologists, are medical doctors that are specifically trained to administer surgery on the ears, nose, and throats. Usually, ENTs treat medical disorders and diseases related to the head and neck and would use medical or surgical methods to improve the patient’s condition. So both ENTs and audiologists would treat hearing related issues.
What do they do
The big differences between an audiologist and ENT lies in the skill set and the procedures they are able to perform on patients.
Audiologists often diagnose, treat and monitor the auditory systems within the ear, to simplify, they would be the one to help one you are suffering from ear loss. They would either prescribe sound therapy or assess whether a hearing aid or cochlear implant is needed for a patient.
On the other hand, ENT doctors will help patients with all ear, nose and throat and base of the skull issues and mostly the procedures performed by ENT doctors’ approach are more surgical. Unlike audiologists, they treat the nose and throat even when the ears are unaffected too, so the scope of their practice is much wider.
ENT and Audiologist qualities
Both ENTs and audiologists need to have an incredible amount of knowledge in auditory and auditory spatial awareness, to correctly diagnose any illness a patient might be suffering from. Moreover, they would have to be able to collaborate in a team, to be a leader that could manage and supervise others and at the same time have the stamina to maintain a busy and quite demanding role. As doctors, they would have to be an expert in listening skills and have the ability to work with people who have communication difficulties.
To become an audiologist, you must have completed a Bachelor of the related fields and then go on to earn a Master or Doctorate in Audiology, during this, an aspiring audiologist must also complete a 375 hours of practicum and complete an extra year of internship. After that, in accordance with the specific location’s laws and rules, they will have to take an extra examination to be able to formally practice as a licensed audiologist. Furthermore, in some states of America, such as Pennsylvania, audiologists must complete a minimum of 10 hours of education each year.
Different from an audiologist, ENTs are medical doctors, so the years of practice you’ll have to go through are longer. First, to be able to apply into medical school, you’ll need to score well on the MCAT and earn a high undergraduate GPA, especially in the related fields like physics, biology, general chemistry and organic chemistry. During this period, you could shadow an ENT physician or earn clinical experience to understand the basics of ENT. Then, you’ll attend about 4 years at a medical school and in the last 2 years, choose to specialize in ENT.
Before being able to practice ENT, you’ll have to undergo another 3-5 years of residency program, and after, depending on the location you choose to work, apply for a state medical license and obtain a certification from the board.
ENTs and audiologists often come hand in hand. If you visit an audiologist, but your situation requires a surgical procedure, like a tumor in the ear causing hearing loss, then an ENT might be referred. If it’s something simpler like an ear infection, then an audiologist will be recommended. Either way, they are both equally important when it comes to protecting your hearing.