Facts - Audiology at a glance
Audiology is hearing and balance care
Audiology is a hearing health-care specialty, and audiologists are trained to diagnose and treat people with hearing and balance problems. Audiologists work in private offices, clinics, medical offices and hospitals.
Hearing loss is common
Hearing loss is the third most-common chronic health condition in the United States, affecting 1 out of every 10 people. That's a conservative estimate, as many people needlessly avoid seeking help and may not be included.
By age, Americans with hearing loss include:
- 1 out of every 25 children
- 1 out of every 14 adults aged 18 to 44
- 1 out of every 7 adults aged 45 to 65
- 1 out of every 3 adults over age 65
Of those with hearing impairment, nearly 95 percent can be helped with hearing aids.
Risk indicators for hearing loss
Delayed speech and language development
Childhood infectious diseases, such as mumps and measles
Recurrent ear infections
Exposure to extreme noise levels such as music, mowers, vacuums, theaters and even loud toys
Concussion and skull fracture
Use of medication that can damage hearing
Hearing loss in infants
Hearing loss is the most common birth defect, affecting 3 in every 1000 born in the United States each year. Untreated, hearing loss may affect speech, language and learning.
Infant hearing screening programs are now available in about a third of the states. Of the babies identified with permanent hearing impairments, nearly half were not considered at high risk for hearing loss, signaling the value of newborn screening. When hearing loss is identified by six months of age and treated, children may develop normal language skills.Common hearing disorders
- High frequency (high pitched) hearing loss is the most prevalent handicapping condition. It can occur with advancing age and is commonly associated with noise exposure.
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus) affects about 5.1 million people, causing hearing loss for many and incapacitating 1 million people. People older than 50 are twice as likely to experience tinnitus.
- Ear infections (otitis media) are the most common cause of temporary hearing loss in young children.
Many times inner ear problems cause a person to fall. Falls are the leading cause of injuries in people age 65 and older.
Balance problems, or vertigo, prompt about 6 million U.S. residents to seek care each year. Nearly all balance disorders are caused by inner ear problems, and most patients - more than 85 percent - benefit from treatment.
In providing hearing care, audiologists:
- Diagnose and treat hearing problems, including balance function and disorders.
- Treat most hearing impairments through modern earware, including programmable and digital hearing aids.
- Develop and implement prevention, screening and early detection programs.
- Recommend hearing protection in industrial, military, travel, music, and other settings.
- Provide training in lip reading and understanding sounds.