The most important decision you will make is the hearing care provider who will evaluate your needs, recommend the best hearing aids for you (if hearing aids are recommended), and work with you to help you reach your goals. Each of these steps is important to get most benefit you can from your hearing aids. And remember, your success with hearing aids will only be as good as the professional with whom you partner.
1. See your primary care provider (PCP). Your primary care doctor may screen your hearing in their office or refer you directly to an audiologist for an evaluation. The primary care provider can also examine you to see if you have a problem that requires additional medical treatment.
2. Understand the differences in hearing aid providers. There are three groups that provide hearing aids:
- Audiologists hold doctoral (Au.D., Ph.D.) or master's degrees from universities and have special training in non-medical treatment of hearing problems. Audiologists are qualified to perform hearing tests, make referrals to physicians and provide hearing aids and follow-up services.
- Otolaryngologists are doctors who have specialized residency and internship training in medical conditions of the ear. Most otolaryngologists do not personally dispense hearing aids. Otolaryngologists should be consulted if a medically treatable disease of the ear is suspected. Only a small percentage of hearing loss in the senior citizen population is medically or surgically treatable.
- Hearing aid dispenser provides testing for the purpose of supplying hearing aids to people with hearing loss. A hearing aid dispenser is not an audiologist and their licensure does not require a college degree related to hearing loss. The requirements for hearing aid dispensing license typically include a high school diploma, apprenticing for an already certified dispenser for some period of time and passing a test about hearing aids.
3. Shop where multiple product lines are available. Be wary of any group that sells only one brand of hearing aid. You want your audiologist or dispenser to have the ability to work with the product that best matches your needs and not be restricted by franchise limitations.
4. Have realistic expectations. Beware of misleading claims, 2-for-1 offers and promises of a miraculous cure. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Hearing aids can't restore normal hearing or eliminate all background noise. Beware of advertisements or anyone who claims otherwise.
5. Get comfortable. Most importantly, make sure that you feel comfortable with the audiologist or dispenser. If you feel rushed or uncomfortable, then it is in your best interest to look elsewhere.
Better Hearing Institute. Hearing Healthcare Professionals. Accessed March 2008. Available at: http://www.betterhearing.org/hearing_solutions/healthcareProfessionals.cfm
American Academy of Audiology. What You Should Know About Hearing Loss. Accessed March 2008. Available at: http://www.audiology.org/aboutaudiology/consumered/guides/hearingloss.htm