An audiologist is a healthcare professional who specializes in the evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, and management of hearing loss and hearing conditions such as tinnitus and hyperacusis. Audiologists must have at least a master’s degree, and must be licensed in the state where they practice. However some, like Dr. Maresca, go on to earn their doctorate in Audiology.
Hearing loss is typically categorized into three types: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed. Each of these types of hearing loss effect different parts of the ear, as well as effect what level of frequency and pitch you can hear. Hearing loss can also vary in degree from mild to profound. It is important that no matter what type of hearing loss you have you see an audiologist to properly diagnose and treat your hearing loss so it does not worsen, effecting your cognitive abilities.
Conductive hearing loss: This occurs when there is a problem with sound travelling to the middle ear. The problem can be located in the ear canal, eardrum, or the middle ear itself. Conductive hearing loss can often be treated medically as it can be caused by ear infections, earwax build-up, a hole in the eardrum, or deterioration of the middle ear.
Sensorineural hearing loss: This occurs when there is damage to the sensory receptors of the hearing system, specifically in the inner ear or affecting the auditory nerve. This is often the result of damage to the hair cells in the cochlea but can be a genetic abnormality as well. This prevents sound from travelling to the brain, resulting in hearing loss. Patients who have sensorineural hearing loss have a difficult time understanding speech, can suffer from tinnitus, and cannot hear in background noise.
Mixed hearing loss: This is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. There is often a problem in both the outer/middle ear as well as the inner ear. The best treatment for mixed hearing loss is to visit a medical doctor to clear up the conductive hearing loss and then to treat the sensorineural portion with hearing aids.
The average time from when someone suspects they have a hearing problem until they have their hearing checked is about 5 years. The average time when someone is diagnosed with hearing loss until they do something about it and are fit with hearing aids is another 5 years. Don’t miss hearing 10 years of your life. If you, or if you notice a loved one, experience any of the following symptoms then it is time to have your hearing checked.
Hearing loss can occur in varying degrees depending on how severe your hearing loss is. Audiologist and hearing professionals measure your hearing loss using an audiogram, a visual representation of your hearing test results, and use decibels (dB) as measurement.
Hearing is directly connected to the brain and memory. The hearing portion of your brain is the largest part of the brain, and when you hear sound your brain identifies the sound, distinguishes whether that sound is important or not, and places it in your memory bank. When you have untreated hearing loss, the brain has to work harder to receive those sound signals resulting in you feeling fatigued. This will cause you to have to concentrate harder when listening to conversations, and feeling tired and unfocused. This also causes the brain to experience a decline in cognitive abilities which can lead to dementia or Alzheimer’s. Once patients have been properly fit with hearing aids, Dr. Maresca has noticed a drastic change in their ability to focus. Patients with hearing aids no longer have to strain to hear, so they feel less tired, more aware, and are getting proper brain stimulation.