Audiologist vs ENT vs Physician: What’s the Difference?

If you’re suffering from hearing or balance issues you may be confused about where to turn for help. In this guide, you’ll discover the difference between an Audiologist and ENT, and when to visit one.

The specific condition you are suffering from will help determine which type of professional (general physician, audiologist, or an ENT) you will need to visit. In this article, we will discuss how to decide which doctor you should visit when experiencing hearing issues. By taking the time to understand the subtle, yet important, differences between these professions, you’ll be much more likely to get the right hearing help that you need.

At any given point in time, tens of millions of Americans will be suffering from a diagnosable hearing disorder. Some of the most common hearing issues experienced by adults (and some children) are tinnitus, misophonia, hyperacusis, and hearing loss.

Suffering from a hearing condition can be incredibly frustrating. As you begin to experience hearing issues, you may also have difficulties sleeping, difficulties interacting with others, and you may even begin to develop depression or other mental health challenges. While some hearing issues will subside on their own, seeking professional medical attention will often be necessary.

If you are currently suffering from a hearing disorder, there are several types of medical professionals you might consider visiting. In addition to scheduling an appointment with your general physician, you might also be considering visiting with an audiologist or an otolaryngologist (also known as an ENT).

Recognizing the Onset of Hearing Issues

One of the reasons identifying hearing issues can be difficult is that these issues tend to develop gradually, rather than all at once. Instead of waking up one day and suddenly experiencing difficulty hearing, many people will begin to slowly lose their hearing over time. In fact, some estimates indicate that the average person loses about 0.5 percent of their hearing per year.

There are, of course, still plenty of instances where hearing issues can develop quickly. If you were exposed to an incredibly loud noise—heavy machinery, loud music, leaf blowers, firearms, etc.—you may have experienced a noise-induced hearing loss that immediately made it much more difficult to hear. Some symptoms, such as tinnitus (ringing in the ears) can also increase in intensity in a very short amount of time.

If you have been hearing ringing in your ears (tinnitus), have found some sounds to be absolutely unbearable (misophonia or hyperacusis), feel pain as a result of noises, or are experiencing any other type of hearing-related concerns, you should take the time to schedule a hearing test. A hearing test should be administered in a soundproof booth with regularly calibrated equipment by an experienced doctor of audiology. These tests, which take about 45 minutes and will cost about $60 out of pocket, will thoroughly examine how you respond to different sounds. Once the diagnostic testing is complete, additional treatments may be recommended.

Should I schedule an appointment with my doctor (primary care physician)?

Regardless of whether you are experiencing hearing issues (or any other medical issues, for that matter), it is a good idea to schedule an appointment with your general physician on an annual basis. In many cases, your general physician will be the one to refer you to an audiologist or otolaryngologist as necessary. Regularly visiting your doctor will help assure that you are healthy. Your doctor will be able to offer screening for many different conditions. Regular checkups, according to the Center for Diseases Control (CDC) and many other sources, can help prevent the onset of some diseases and add many years to your life.

Even with all this being said, a general physician may not always be able to fully help people suffering from a hearing disorder. In many cases, especially if you have a hearing condition that requires specialized treatment or surgery, an audiologist or an otolaryngologist may be recommended.

Should I schedule an appointment with an audiologist?

Audiologists, generally speaking, are in an excellent position to help the majority of individuals suffering from hearing loss and other hearing issues. If you are suffering from tinnitus, hyperacusis, misophonia, or other common hearing afflictions, visiting an experienced audiologist at a local hearing center will be your best recourse. Audiologists are trained to identify these issues and many have chosen to specialize in treating these symptoms. Independent hearing centers are focused on offering hearing solutions that are specific to each individual they see.

When compared to a general physician—who must spend time focusing on every bodily system—audiologists are able to offer a significantly larger degree of specialization in hearing disorders specifically. They can also help with various types of sound therapy and help their patients select an appropriate hearing aid. If you are currently suffering from any sort of hearing issue, visiting an audiologist can have a tremendously positive impact.

Should I schedule an appointment with an otolaryngologist (ENT)?

An otolaryngologist is a medical doctor that has been trained to administer surgery on the ears, nose, and throat (which is why they are often called “ENTs”). ENTs treat medical disorders and diseases related to the head and neck. ENTs treat hearing loss when medical or surgical treatment will improve the condition.

This includes disorders related to balance, speech, swallowing, sleep and sinuses.

  • Ear Infections
  • Hearing Loss
  • Dizziness

Because treatment from an otolaryngologist usually involves some form of surgery, these individuals typically deal with patients who are suffering from very severe conditions (certain types of cancer, serious damage to the ear, etc.). If you are suffering from tinnitus or other relatively common conditions, a visit to an otolaryngologist probably isn’t necessary. Those who do visit an ENT were likely first referred by another doctor (including general physicians and audiologists.)

Conclusion – Audiologist vs Otolaryngologist: What’s the Difference?

General physicians, audiologists, and otolaryngologists (ENT) can all help those who are experiencing hearing issues. ENTs are best for hearing and ear issues that will likely require pharmaceutical management and/or surgery. Primary physicians are ideal for an annual checkup and for giving referrals to specialists. Audiologists, such as those you will find at a hearing center, can be used for all other hearing issues. These issues include tinnitus, hearing loss, hyperacusis, and many other conditions.

Still unsure of which kind of doctor you need? Contact the experts at Sound Relief Hearing Center or schedule an appointment online. There is hope, there is help. Discover the difference experiences makes. Call (720) 344-7600 today.


At Sound Relief Tinnitus & Hearing Center, we provide hope and help to those living with tinnitus and other hearing health issues. Our patients are at the center of everything we do, and we strive to guide them to overcome their challenges by delivering innovative and compassionate healthcare.

Dr. Julie Prutsman, owner of this family-owned practice, has expanded to 9 locations across Colorado and Arizona. In 2012, she founded Sound Relief in her hometown of Highlands Ranch, Colorado and continues to foster their mission through mentorship of the brightest minds in the field of Audiology.