If I have hearing loss, who should I see?
If you suspect you or someone you know has hearing loss, it's important to be seen by a hearing professional to learn more about your condition and your options for treatment. You may want to check with your insurance company for a recommendation to be sure your exam will be covered. Also, in some parts of the country, it may be easier to find one type of hearing professional than another.
There are three categories of hearing healthcare professionals
Otolaryngologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of ear, nose, throat, head and neck disorders. They are also known as ENT doctors. Many people see an otolaryngologist or ENT at some point in their life, perhaps for a sinus infection, ear infection, or other common medical problem. If you have a child or grandchild with chronic ear infections, and ear tubes are part of their treatment, chances are an ENT did the surgery.
Audiologists are professionals with master's degrees, Au.D.s or Ph.D.s in audiology, which is the study of hearing. They specialize in testing, evaluating and treating hearing loss. An audiologist may also fit hearing aids. You may have visited an audiologist if your child's school included a hearing test as part of a back-to-school health and wellness checkup. Audiologists also help people who are experiencing balance problems related to issues with the inner ear.
While both of these medical professionals can test for and diagnose hearing loss, hearing aid fitting and follow up may not be their primary practice.
Hearing aid specialists are often state licensed and board certified to test for hearing loss and to fit consumers for hearing aids. A hearing aid specialist or hearing aid dispenser is focused solely on diagnosing and treating hearing loss with hearing aids or assistive listening devices, and they are frequently called upon to assist ENTs and audiologists with patients who are experiencing hearing loss.
A hearing aid specialist can administer all of the tests necessary to determine the type and severity of your hearing loss. They can dispense and fit hearing aids to your exact needs. They provide assistance and follow up as you grow accustomed to new hearing aids, and they make adjustments to hearing aid settings as necessary. They also provide guidance about hearing aid care and maintenance, repair services if you experience a problem with your hearing aid, and they usually sell hearing aid batteries to keep your hearing aid operating at full power.
Seeing a hearing healthcare professional is advised
If you are first seen by a hearing aid specialist, and they suspect an underlying medical problem may be causing your hearing problem, they will likely refer you to an ENT or audiologist for further tests.
All of these trained experts have the experience and technology needed to precisely diagnose and measure your degree of hearing loss, then prescribe and administer a solution personalized for you — including providing ongoing support and care. It's most important to be seen as soon as you think you may have a hearing problem, and to find a hearing professional you can work with for the long term — especially if your treatment will include hearing aids.
Success with hearing aids is truly a partnership between you and your hearing care provider, whatever type of hearing professional you choose to see.
To make an appointment with a hearing professional near you, call 1 800 024 985 or visit this page.