An Audiologist is a professional concerned with all types of hearing impairments and their relationship to communication disorders. Audiologists are involved in the identification, assessment, diagnosis, evaluation, treatment and management of disorders of peripheral or central auditory impairments (hearing loss/impairment and/or deafness), balance system disorders/dysfunction, tinnitus and other neural systems.
The Audiologist is trained to identify and evaluate the range, nature and degree of hearing/hearing loss in babies, children and adults. They are also involved in audiological (aural) habilitation and rehabilitation to both children and adults, and are trained and capable with regard to planning, conducting, directing and participating in the management of persons with hearing loss, whether it be referral for medical management, or the selection, fitting and provision of suitable hearing aids and other assistive listening devices to both children and adults.
Audiologists are also involved in the prevention of hearing loss through auditory training, counselling, guidance and the provision and fitting of hearing protective devices such as noise plugs.
Speech audiometry assesses your auditory abilities using everyday words. This test gives the audiologist a better understanding of how well you can perceive various speech sounds and gives an idea of how well you would cope with hearing aids, should they be recommended. While wearing headphones, the audiologist will verbally read out a word, or present a pre-recorder wordlist and you will then be asked to repeat the word back to the audiologist.
A hearing aid is a small device that is programmed to your individual hearing loss. It uses highly advanced technology to detect incoming sound and process it in such a way that allows the wearer access to these sounds in an individualised way and improves understanding of speech.
The style of hearing aids have drastically changed over the years. There are three main styles of hearing aids:
Receiver in the canal
Custom hearing aids
There is a very wide array of hearing aids on the market, some less advanced and some more advanced. The type of hearing aid that will be recommended to you may not be the same we will recommend for the next person. It is an individual decision and will be based on your hearing loss and your everyday listening needs. Available finances will also be taken into account. We can assist you with obtaining benefit information from your medical aid and also have contacts with financing companies should you need funds to finance the purchase of hearing aids.
Auditory Processing is a term used to describe how the brain recognises and interprets sound. As such, an Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is a deficit in the brain's ability to understand and use sound information correctly; hearing levels are usually within the normal range. In short, it is the brains inability to correctly process auditory information.
APD assessments can be performed on adults and on children over 5 years of age who have normal hearing, but cannot process sound information accurately. It is more common to assess children, many (but not all) of these children experience significant learning difficulties because they are unable to make sense of what they are hearing.
A parent or teacher may suspect APD if a child:
APD can often be confused with other conditions such as language disorders or higher-order cognitive disorders (eg. Autism, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) as the symptoms and behaviours the child exhibit can be similar. It is important to note that APD is specific to the auditory deficit alone and not the results of any cognitive, language or related disorder. In some cases, however, APD can coexist with these disorders. A careful and accurate assessment is therefore required for proper diagnosis.What to expect during an Auditory Processing assessment
An APD assessment consists of a series of tests, each one designed to assess a specific auditory skill. The pattern of the results of each test allows a profile of strengths and weaknesses to emerge. This is important because the degree and type of auditory processing deficit and individual experiences will determine the most appropriate therapy specific to his or her needs; there is no "one-size-fits-all" treatment for APD.
We perform a thorough diagnostic Auditory Processing Disorder assessment for children from 7 years of age and adults who have auditory processing difficulties. Children can be assessed from 5 years of age, but with a more limited set of tests. Younger children cannot be assessed because the normal variability in brain function across younger children is so marked that accurate test interpretation is not possible.
We generally allow 2 hours for an auditory processing assessment, the assessment involves the following:
Our audiologist will ask you questions regarding your/ your child's learning and hearing skills. Please bring any reports from a Speech therapist, Educational psychologist, Behavioural optometrist or school reports along to the appointment.
A hearing assessment is performed to determine the softest sounds that can be heard by your child for each frequency (pitch) important for speech understanding. This information is plotted on a graph called an audiogram. Tests to determine middle ear movement and the ear's physiological response to sound (acoustic reflex testing) may also be performed.
This test assesses your child's ability to recall numbers and sentence material in sequence.
Auditory perception skills are often affected should a child have difficulty with auditory processing. Tests for auditory perception are often language-based and a language delay could affect results. We find it beneficial to include auditory perceptual tests in the test battery to get a more global picture of your child’s skills.
Some tests that could be included are:
At the conclusion of the assessment, the audiologist will explain the test results to you, discuss recommendations and answer any questions. A detailed written report will also be supplied (at a later date) and will include results as well as recommendations for further investigations and or management/intervention as appropriate.
What can be done about an Auditory Processing Disorder?
Management of Auditory Processing Disorder involves a team approach and can be separated into three areas:
Encompasses changing the learning or communication environment to improve your child's access to auditory information. This includes preferential seating in the classroom or use of electronic devices such as FM systems.
These are techniques/exercises designed to improve auditory processing skills by remediating the specific disorder/s that have been identified through the assessment process. There are many such intervention programs, run by a variety of professionals. Typically a speech therapist will be involved in the intervention process.
Home-based programs may also be recommended in conjunction with direct therapy. Some examples are Zoocaper Skyscraper, Insane Airplane and Soundstorm. These are all apps backed by a lot of scientific research, designed to help remediate APD in a playful way.
These are strategies that can be useful in enabling the child to cope with daily listening activities by overcoming potential problems and disruptions to active listening and auditory processing.
The amount and rate of improvement in auditory processing ability as a result of intervention and management is variable. However, with appropriate management, almost all children will demonstrate some gains, allowing them greater access to the world of sound, speech, and language.