Our audiologists use the latest technology and research to diagnose and treat hearing issues.
Knowing matters. Our audiologists will work with you to understand your symptoms, provide answers and create a personalized treatment plan.
From the first appointment, we’re here for you at many locations in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, so quality care is always close to home.
Noticing a change in your hearing can be frustrating and a little scary, but it’s a common health issue. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 15% of American adults report trouble hearing.
But many adults wait up to ten years after their initial diagnosis before being fit with their first set of hearing aids. A National Center on Aging survey showed those with untreated hearing loss may experience higher rates of depression and anxiety. In addition, emerging research is finding a connection between untreated hearing loss and dementia.
Whether you just started noticing changes to your hearing, or it’s been going on a while, we’re here to help. Our team of audiologists are ready to evaluate your hearing and make recommendations for improving it.
At HealthPartners and Park Nicollet, our audiologists have a deep understanding of hearing and ear conditions in patients of all ages, including hearing loss, balance issues and other ear disorders. Our audiologists work closely with our ENT (ear, nose and throat) and primary care doctors to provide treatment that meets your needs.
Audiologists are available at clinics in Minnesota and western Wisconsin. This includes the HealthPartners Specialty Center in St. Paul and the Park Nicollet Audiology and Hearing Store in St. Louis Park. There, you can purchase hearing aids and accessories, get fitted for a hearing aid and get your hearing aid repaired.
We offer a complete range of audiology services, including:
- Assessment for cochlear implants
- Diagnostic hearing evaluations
- Dizziness and vertigo assessment
- Hearing aid evaluations
- Hearing aid repairs and services
- Hearing aid sales with expert assistance
- Newborn and pediatric hearing loss screening and evaluations
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ear) consultations
- Vestibular (balance) evaluations
If you have any of these common symptoms, you might want to consider visiting an audiologist to discuss your hearing:
- It’s difficult to understand words, especially if there’s background noise
- Conversations sound muffled or muted
- You need the TV or music volume higher than usual to understand what’s being said
- You have trouble hearing consonants
- You frequently ask others to speak louder, repeat themselves and speak more slowly
- You have ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
Hearing loss can be caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors. Some of the most common causes of hearing loss include:
- Earwax buildup
- Noise exposure
- Medical conditions, infections or injuries
- Medication side effects
Our audiologists are experts on hearing loss and other hearing problems. Some of the conditions we treat are:
Tinnitus is a ringing or buzzing in the ears that won’t go away. It’s caused by exposure to loud noises. The exact sound people hear varies from person to person. Some hear a buzzing or sizzling sound like bacon frying in a skillet, while others describe the sound as a high-pitched whistle. Tinnitus can be distracting, frustrating and sometimes painful. There is no known cure for tinnitus, but in some cases it can be managed with therapy and other treatments.
Conductive hearing loss occurs when sounds can’t travel through the outer and middle ear. This makes it difficult to hear soft sounds and muffles loud sounds. Conductive hearing loss can be caused by fluid buildup, ear infections, poor ear formation, a blockage in the ear or a hole in the eardrum. Our audiologists will look into what’s causing your hearing loss. This assessment helps your otolaryngologist (ENT doctor) determine whether medicine, minimally invasive surgery or a combination of both is best for you.
Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is the most common type of permanent hearing loss. It occurs when the microscopic hairs inside the inner ear are damaged by injury, aging, illnesses (like meningitis or the mumps), genetics or exposure to loud sounds or drugs that are toxic to hearing. Though people with SNHL won’t fully regain their hearing, hearing aids, surgery, or cochlear implants can help improve their hearing.
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive hearing loss and SNHL that occurs when there’s damage to both the inner and outer ear. Mixed hearing loss is usually treated with hearing aids combined with medicine or surgery.
Infections and head trauma can sometimes cause sudden hearing loss. Sudden hearing loss can also be an indication of an underlying medical condition, like autoimmune diseases, inner ear disorders, or blood circulation problems. Anyone experiencing sudden hearing loss should see a doctor immediately.
One or more of these techniques are commonly used to diagnose the cause of hearing and balance issues.
A hearing test, or audiogram, is used to determine how well you hear and what type of hearing loss you’re experiencing. There are two main types of hearing tests: the audiometer test and the speech test.
This test takes place in a soundproof room and helps determine the severity of hearing loss. We will ask you to put on headphones. Then, we’ll ask you to raise your hand whenever you hear a sound. The sounds will occur in each ear and at different frequencies and volumes.
In this test, an audiologist will measure your ability to hear words at specific volumes. Your audiologist will ask you to repeat words you hear over a set of headphones and make a note of how well you are able to recognize speech.
When sounds move across the air, it’s your eardrum that vibrates in response, capturing those sounds. It’s a vital part of your ear. The tympanometry test measures how well your eardrum moves in response to small gusts of air. The results can help identify if there are problems with your eardrum that are interfering with your hearing.
This test uses electrodes to monitor activity in the brainstem related to hearing. The presence of brain activity can help evaluate whether signals from the ear are reaching the brain. As a result, this test is especially useful for people, such as young children, who can’t participate in other hearing exam methods.
Balance and dizziness issues can have a variety of causes, some of which are in the ear. A VNG (Videonystagmography) test records your eye movement in response to a variety of conditions. This test can help identify if your balance issues are related to conditions inside your ears.
After your condition is diagnosed, we’ll work with you to find a treatment option that best fits with your needs and lifestyle. Depending on your condition, we might recommend one of these common treatments:
A hearing aid is a device worn on or in the ear. It amplifies sound to make hearing easier. People with hearing loss can choose between several hearing aid options. Based on the type of hearing loss you’re experiencing, we’ll work with you to decide which option is best.
Hearing aids come in four types:
- Behind-the-ear (BTE)
- In-the-ear (ITE)
- In-the-canal (ITC)
- Completely-in-canal (CIC)
Some people aren’t able to use traditional hearing aids because of their ear shape or type of hearing loss. If this is the case, we might recommend an auditory osseointegrated implant. This hearing aid is connected directly to your bone, so it can be a great option for people with damaged or uniquely shaped ears.
Cochlear implants are small electronic devices surgically placed inside the ear to give people who are hearing impaired or severely hard of hearing a sense of sound. Unlike hearing aids, cochlear implants do not amplify sound. Instead, the implant stimulates the auditory nerve to send sound signals to the brain. Though it is different than biological hearing, cochlear implants help people understand speech and the sounds around them. If it appears a cochlear implant is the right option for you, our audiology team will program the implant, and one of our skilled otolaryngologists (ENT doctors) will surgically place the implant inside your ear.
Aural rehabilitation classes help people with hearing loss learn how to communicate and cope with their change in hearing. Losing your hearing can be an emotional time and feel isolating. Many people struggle with feelings of anxiety and depression when dealing with hearing loss. Aural rehabilitation connects you with others and provides education and support.
Aural rehabilitation classes cover topics like:
- Expectations of hearing aids and technology
- Hearing aid care and use
- Communication strategies, including information on basic lip-reading
- Assistive technologies for television and telephone
- Emotional health issues related to hearing loss
Call 651-254-8570 for class information and registration.
While both audiologists and otolaryngologists (ENT doctors) are experts on issues related to the ear, they have different roles to play.
ENT doctors specialize in diagnosing and treating conditions that affect the ear, nose, throat and mouth. When it comes to treating hearing problems, our ENT doctors are up to date on all of the latest surgical techniques and medications for addressing health conditions related to your hearing.
Audiologists are skilled health care professionals who focus on evaluating hearing and balance. Audiologists perform diagnostic tests to help evaluate your hearing and symptoms. They work closely with ENT doctors to help them diagnose medical conditions. Audiologists are also able to prescribe hearing aids, and they work closely with ENT doctors when patients would benefit from cochlear implants.
If you haven’t spoken to a doctor about your hearing concerns yet, many patients start by visiting one of our primary care doctors first. Primary care doctors can perform preliminary hearing screenings on patients of all ages and can help you understand the best next step for treatment.
Restoring hearing loss naturally is only possible in very limited cases. Most people lose their hearing slowly over time when the delicate hair cells in our ears, which detect sound, degrade or are damaged. In these cases, there is no way to naturally reverse hearing loss that has already happened. However, there are many treatment options, like hearing aids, to help people hear their best.
We accept most health insurance plans, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, CIGNA, HealthPartners, Medica, Medicare, PreferredOne and many others.
Don’t have your card in front of you? Here are member services numbers to help you get started:
- HealthPartners: 800-883-2177
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota: 800-382-2000
- CIGNA: 800-244-6224 (insurance through work); 866-494-2111 (insurance directly or through the Exchange)
- Medica: 800-952-3455
- Medicare: 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227)
- PreferredOne: 763-847-4477 (in the Twin Cities); 800-997-1750 (outside the metro area)
- United Healthcare: 877-842-3210