Is An Audiologist Part of Your Health-Care Team?
Hearing loss is often associated with numerous systemic disorders. As audiologists, we frequently provide consultation for patients whose care is managed by other specialists. However, sometimes we need to provide more than just a consultative service. For many patients seeking answers to an issue, our audiological results may help in determining a diagnosis and selecting appropriate treatment.
Often times, a patient’s health history may be complex and their health-care team can include numerous providers. As hearing health-care providers, we often function independently from other health-care providers when working with a patient. However, the best outcome for the patient occurs when all of the medical professionals involved work together.
As professionals and experts in hearing health care, we as audiologists need to be an active part of a patient’s health-care team. It is our responsibility to clearly explain audiological results and ensure that both the patient and other health-care professionals involved in their care understand those results.
Our audiological testing can potentially rule out other conditions and help to provide an accurate and timely diagnosis. It is important to obtain as much personal and family medical history that we can from a patient due to the many conditions and diseases associated with hearing loss. We should also take the time to research the patient’s other medical conditions to determine if they may be contributing to the presenting concern or help in leading to a diagnosis.
Some patients will come to us without having an identified disorder or genetic issue. Some with seemingly unlinked symptoms that have auditory and/or vestibular manifestations may come to us seeking answers. For some with a specific concern, an audiologist may be the initial contact with the health-care system. Our role is most complicated for the patient with an unknown diagnosis. Patients may come to us after experiencing dizziness or tinnitus, which can be initial symptoms for numerous medical conditions. The results of the medical history and testing should go beyond audiological recommendations and be appropriate to guide a referral to other health-care professionals if needed.
As audiologists and experts in hearing health-care, we have a responsibility to educate other health-care providers in their communities about the relationship between hearing loss and other medical conditions. Increased knowledge can promote action that directs patients to appropriate care. There are medical professionals in many specialty areas that treat conditions associated with hearing loss. Primary care physicians who work with the aging populations need education and information on current research regarding untreated hearing loss and dementia. Medical professionals must have awareness of potential comorbidity and know where and when to refer their patients for audiological evaluation.
As audiologists, we need to stay updated on advancement in genetic research in our field and their potential effects on patients with hearing loss. This knowledge is vital in providing assessments and treatment plans for all patients, including referral to other appropriate health-care providers. Patients seek audiological services to benefit from our expertise and knowledge. It is our responsibility to treat the whole patient, even when the audiological recommendations are not the solution. Our role as audiologists goes beyond assessment and treatment. We must also advocate for hearing health for the well being of our patients.
Professional relationships and partnerships throughout health care are what are best for all health-care professionals. Additionally, it is also what is best for the patient. Educating patients and providers in our community and establishing professional relationships and partnerships is what advances the profession of audiology and improves the level of care for everyone.