How to Find a Hearing Care Professional
If you are concerned about your hearing, finding a hearing care professional is just a few clicks away.
For those who have lived their whole lives hearing normally, it can be difficult to admit that their ears aren’t working quite like they used to. If you are reading this, chances are you’ve taken the first step towards restoring your hearing health. Whether or not you came to this decision yourself or with the help of family and friends, you should be proud—while almost 30 million Americans could benefit from hearing aids, fewer than one in three have ever worn one. Stigmas regarding hearing loss often prolong the period of denial before treatment is pursued, but early treatment is the only effective way to stop partial hearing loss from progressing.
A visit to a hearing care professional is required to diagnose hearing loss and prescribe a hearing aid. The relationship you build with this professional will see you through the entirety of the hearing restoration process, so it is important to choose the right one when scheduling an appointment. With the help of this website, you can learn all about hearing loss treatment and choose a hearing care professional who is flexible, reliable, trustworthy, and within your budget.
What is a hearing care professional?
A hearing care professional is anyone who has the required education and experience to test your hearing, diagnose your hearing loss, and fit you for hearing aids. Examples of hearing care professionals include the following:
- Otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat physician, or ENT)
- Hearing aid specialist
An otolaryngologist specializes in diseases of the ear as they relate to other parts of the body, particularly the nose and throat. Audiologists, on the other hand, focus more on rehabilitating hearing loss as well as any communication disorders related to hearing. To distinguish the two, imagine an ENT doctor as an “ear doctor” and an audiologist as a “hearing doctor”. Many ENT doctors offer audiological care as a secondary service. Since ENTs typically specialize in surgery, audiologists and dispensers often work with ENT physicians to provide audiograms and diagnostics that might aid in any medical operation.
Audiologists must have eight years of professional experience, including an undergraduate degree in Communication Sciences and four years of work relevant to the field of hearing. To receive certification, audiologists must earn a Doctor of Audiology (AuD) degree. Appointments with an audiologist typically consist of an assessment, some diagnostic tests, a conversation about treatment options, and a hearing aid fitting if necessary.
Hearing aid specialists are trained to evaluate your hearing, fit your hearing aids, and provide follow-up services. However, unlike audiologists or ENT doctors, hearing aid specialists typically undergo supervised training for six months to two years. Some may have graduated with a two-year college degree in this field, and most states require that hearing aid specialists be licensed. National certification is also available, although not required. In addition to helping you choose a hearing aid, these specialists can also make alterations and repairs to damaged or uncomfortable devices. You should expect to see a hearing care professional for full diagnosis of your hearing issues and any related conditions before going to a hearing aid specialist to be fitted with hearing aids.
Audiologists and other hearing care professionals often work privately, but can also be found in public or consumer settings. Here’s a breakdown of their distribution channels:
- 39% work in the private sector for retail, clinical, and private practice groups
- 24% work in the public sector for government-sponsored programs like the Veterans Administration and Medicaid
- 16% work for third-party contract programs and health care insurance affinity programs, such as Medicare Advantage
- 11% work for manufacturer-owned stores or clinics
- 10% work for “Big Box” stores such as Costco and Wal-Mart
Private practices are often recognized for their expertise and reliability when it comes to selecting and fitting hearing aids. “Big Box” stores are known to slash prices, but sometimes limit overall services and selection.
Finding a hearing care professional
In addition to private practice and group hearing care practices, you can also find hearing care professionals in large retail chains such as Costco. Hospitals and other medical practices also offer hearing centers run or staffed by otolaryngologists and/or audiologists.
The easiest way to find a hearing care professional is to ask your personal care physician for a referral. You can also ask your insurer what, if any, hearing care services may be covered and which hearing care professionals are in their network. Or, you can use our online locator tool to find a hearing care professional near where you live.
You can also find hearing care professionals (if eligible) at a Veteran’s Administration (VA) center or designated clinic.