Just as you see a specialist for your teeth and your eyes, the same goes for your ears. Once we reach our late 50s, chances are you may have some hearing loss. While a noticeable decrease in hearing may be a major factor is a decision to make an appointment with an audiologist, it’s not the only one. Here are five reasons to see an audiologist.

For a Checkup

As we age, it’s more important than ever to maintain good health. One area often overlooked is our hearing. Instead of waiting until you notice that something may be wrong, it’s better to schedule a hearing test to use as a baseline evaluation. This should be done in your mid to late 50s. Then subsequent hearing test results will give your audiologist a good picture of your hearing health and map out any hearing loss.

Children also should see an audiologist as infants and then periodically through their school years.

To Care for Excess Earwax

Your audiologist does more than administer hearing tests. He or she also performs a physical examination of your ears to look for signs of problems, including earwax impaction. This condition can be painful and may occur when you misuse cotton swabs by inserting them into the ear canal (which pushes earwax back toward the eardrum). Some people just have more earwax than others and need help removing the excess. Rather than using a commercial product that may irritate your ears, it’s better to see an audiologist to gently remove a blockage.

Ringing in the Ears

The American Tinnitus Association reports nearly 50 million Americans suffer some sort of tinnitus – a ringing, swooshing, buzzing, hissing or clicking sound in the ears when there is no external sound. Tinnitus also can be a symptom of other health problems, including hearing loss, sinus pressure, temporomandibular joint disorder, head trauma, even high blood pressure. Your audiologist can discuss causes and treatments.

Hearing Loss or Changes in Your Hearing

Most people notice a gradual loss of hearing and wonder if hearing aids may improve things. Symptoms include finding it difficult to hear in noisy places, having a hard time hearing children’s voices or whispering or you often ask to have things repeated. An audiologist can evaluate your hearing loss and discuss treatments. If you experience a sudden hearing loss, it’s important to see an audiologist as quickly as possible to determine the problem. This may occur after a head trauma or exposure to loud noises.

Balance disorders

Some inner ear issues can cause balance disorders. If you experience dizziness, lightheadedness or a spinning sensation, these may be symptoms of vertigo. Audiologists can diagnose and treat these problems as well as Meniere’s disease (a disorder of the inner ear associated with balance).

Often we don’t consider our ears when we think about our overall health. These five reasons to see an audiologist give you a good idea of the broad range of issues these professionals can treat.