Audiology and Hearing Aid Services

The audiology segment of the Department of Otolaryngology at UAB includes three main segments:  Diagnostic testing, Hearing aid dispensing, and Cochlear implants.

Diagnostic Testing:

Hearing test strategies, including pure tone and speech audiometry, otoacoustic emissions, and auditory brainstem response testing, are performed and aim to define a patient's hearing level and type of hearing loss if present.

Once the degree and type of hearing loss are determined, additional diagnostic and treatment options are considered and offered to the patient where appropriate.  Treatment for hearing loss can be medical, surgical or hearing amplification, and it is best determined by the underlying cause of the hearing loss.

Hearing testing

  • Pure tone and speech audiometry
  • Impedance audiometry
  • Otoacoustic emissions
  • Auditory brainstem response testing

Vestibular or balance testing strategies focus on testing the vestibular (balance) portion of the inner ear.   Once baseline measurements of vestibular, and visual function are performed, results are combined with clinical presentation, physical examination, and additional diagnostic evaluation to determine the proper explanation for dizziness and balance disorders.

Vestibular (Dizziness or balance) testing  

  •  Videonystagmography
  •  Electronystagmography
  •  Vestibular evoked myogenic potentials
  •  Electrocochleography

Hearing Aids:

State of the art hearing aids are provided through the UAB Department of Otolaryngology and include several prominent brand names, such as Phonak, Siemens, GNResound and Otocon.

Conventional hearing aids may be Behind the ear (BTE), In the ear (ITE), Completely in the canal (CIC), or Contralateral routing of offside signal (CROS) hearing aids.

In the last few years, modern advances in hearing aid technology have dramatically improved hearing aid functionality, and with it, patient satisfaction.  These advances include features such as Open fit hearing aids, Directional microphones, Digital signal processing, Noise reduction algorithms, Feedback cancellation, and programming options for different sound environments.  Other features include Bluetooth connectivity, remote control of programs and volume, and additional assistive listening devices. 

Cochlear implants:

Patients with severe to profound hearing loss and little improvement with hearing aids may become candidates for cochlear implantation.  After conventional audiometric testing demonstrates that a patient has severe to profound hearing loss, candidacy for implantation is determined with a special battery of hearing tests under specific conditions to determine the amount of communication improvement gained through the patient's reliance on lip reading and hearing aids. 

After candidacy is confirmed with audiologic testing, neurotology consultation is necessary to evaluate for medical and surgical limitations, underlying disease processes, and concurrent medical disease.

After surgery for cochlear implantation, implant programming is performed in a series of visits. Initially the implant is activated. With activation of the implant, stimulus limits are determined for initial perception of sound and uncomfortable stimulus levels. Once initial limits are determined, initial programming of the implant is completed, and the patient begins the process of hearing rehabilitation with implant. As neuroplastic changes occur in response to the new stimulus within the patient's brain over the ensuing 18 to 24 months, several visits with reprogramming of the implant are necessary to optimize the patient's outcome with the implant.