What is an audiologist?
An audiologist is a university-trained health professional who diagnoses and helps people with hearing impairment and related conditions like tinnitus and balance problems.
Audiologists help people manage their hearing loss with hearing technology and rehabilitation. They also help people learn about what to do to prevent hearing loss.
Audiologists work in hospitals, community health services, government-funded hearing services, private practice, specialist clinics and some medical practices.
Why your child might see an audiologist
Your child might see an audiologist if your child has hearing impairment, speech or communication problems, or learning difficulties.
Most Australian babies have their hearing checked very soon after birth, as part of your state or territory newborn hearing screening program. If your child passes her newborn screening test and you're still worried about her hearing or listening behaviour at any age, contact an audiologist or speak with your GP or child and family health nurse.
Your GP might recommend a hearing test with an audiologist if your child has repeated ear infections or another serious illness - for example, meningitis - or if you're worried about your child's learning or general development.
Audiology tests and treatment
An audiologist uses different tests to work out how well your child hears. These are called diagnostic tests.
For babies, the audiologist can do diagnostic tests while your baby sleeps.
For toddlers, the audiologist will get your child to listen to some different beeps and whistles, and then get your child to respond by turning to a visual reward - for example, a puppet.
For preschoolers, the audiologist might use a play activity - for example, dropping a block - or get your child to press a button.
For school-age children, audiologists can do an auditory processing capability test. This test diagnoses auditory processing disorder.
The audiologist might ask you to help during testing - for example, by holding your child on your lap or encouraging your child to do the test. The audiologist might also ask you about things you've noticed in your child's hearing, speech or communication.
The tests will also usually include looking in your child's ears and testing the movement of the middle ear (or eardrum).
The audiologist will use the test results and observations of your child's hearing and communication to work out what hearing problems your child has.
If your child has been diagnosed with a permanent or temporary hearing loss, the audiologist can tell you about different ways to improve your child's hearing, speech and language development. These might include hearing aids or cochlear implants.
The audiologist can also help your child manage any hearing problems in everyday life.
The audiologist might refer your child to other allied health practitioners. And if your child needs further medical tests and treatment, the audiologist can refer him to a medical specialist, such as an ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon.You don't need a GP referral to see an audiologist, but your GP or child and family health nurse is always a good place to start if you're worried about your child's health or development. These professionals can help you decide about seeing an audiologist and help you find someone who's right for your child.
Before going to an audiologist
Before seeing the audiologist, it's a good idea to find out about the following things:
- Why you're going to the audiologist: talk with your GP or child and family health nurse about why your child needs to see an audiologist.
- Waiting lists: how long before you can get an appointment to see the audiologist?
- Is there anything you can do while you're waiting to get an appointment?
- Making an appointment: it might take you more than one phone call to make an appointment.
- Costs: how much will the appointment with the audiologist cost? It might be expensive, so you could check whether you can get money back from Medicare or private health insurance or whether you can get some other kind of financial help.
- Locations: find out where you have to go to see the audiologist - for example, a public or private hospital, or consulting rooms. You might have to travel further than you expect, depending on your child's needs.