If you had a cough or a runny nose, would you go to a dentist? Probably not. Likewise, if you were having chest pains, you probably wouldn’t go to an orthopedic surgeon. You’d probably go to a hospital emergency room or a cardiologist.
But lots of people are confused about who they should see if they think they have a hearing loss. Should you start with your family practice provider? Or an ear, nose and throat specialist? Or maybe an audiologist?
The answer, in most cases, is to start with an audiologist if you think you may be experiencing hearing loss. An audiologist is a doctoral professional who specializes in the diagnosis and non-medical treatment of hearing loss, tinnitus and balance disorders.
Audiologists Receive Extensive Training
Audiologists receive extensive education in hearing and balance disorders. These professionals have earned postgraduate masters and/or doctoral degrees. A doctoral degree is now required for graduates practicing after 2012. Look for the initials Au.D., (Doctor of Audiology – clinical degree); or Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy – research and/or clinical research degree); to designate doctoral training.
Many audiologists, including all of the audiologists with Associated Audiologists, also have earned a Certificate of Clinical Competency in Audiology, indicated by the initials CCC-A after their names. This is a voluntary certificate issued by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Professionals who have been awarded the CCC-A have completed a rigorous academic program and a supervised clinical experience and have passed a national examination.
What Can Audiologists Do?
- Provide comprehensive hearing evaluations
- Recommend, fit, service, and adjust hearing aids
- Recommend and provide assistive listening devices (products to enhance telephone conversations, television viewing, etc.)
- Diagnose and treat dizziness/balance disorders
- Provide tinnitus evaluation, treatment and management
- Provide education regarding the effects of noise on hearing and prevention of hearing loss, along with recommending and fitting hearing protection
- Deliver counseling and aural rehabilitation (counseling, education, auditory training/exercises)
- Make medical referrals to a physician when appropriate for issues such as ear pain, drainage from the ear, sudden hearing loss, cochlear implantation, medical conditions, etc.
Audiologists Help You Choose the Right Hearing Aid
There are literally hundreds of hearing aids available with a wide variety of features. Because hearing aids are medical devices regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they must be recommended, prescribed, and fitted by licensed professionals. This standard is in place to protect the individual with hearing loss.
An audiologist can use advanced diagnostic testing to determine your type of hearing loss, and can use this information to determine the best hearing aid solution for your specific needs and budget. In fact, a recent study confirmed that individuals who work with an audiologist are more satisfied with their hearing aids.
Other health care professionals also may see patients for a variety of problems related to their hearing health.
A hearing aid dispenser can perform basic hearing tests and can sell and service hearing aids, but their scope of practice is much more limited than an audiologist’s, as is their training and education. The designator or credential for a hearing instrument dispenser or specialist is HIS (i.e., John Doe, HIS). You may also see the designation BC-HIS, which stands for board certification in hearing instrument science. This recognizes completion of a national examination.
You also may see your physician, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant if you are having difficulty hearing. These are the medical professionals you typically see for primary care, such as your family doctor, or specialty care, such as an ear, nose and throat doctor. Physician’s credentials are usually M.D. (allopathic medical doctor), or D.O. (doctor of osteopathic medicine). Nurse practitioners are usually designated by the credentials F.N.P. (family nurse practitioner) or A.P.R.N. (advanced practice registered nurse). Many nurse practitioners also are earning their doctorates and are designated as D.N.P. (doctorate nurse practitioner). Physician’s assistants are designated as P.A. Other subspecialist physicians (M.D. or D.O.) you might see for your hearing or balance include:
- Otolaryngologist (ENT)—An otolaryngologist specializes in treating ear, nose and throat problems.
- Neurotologist—A neurotologist specializes in treating neurological disorders of the ear.
- Otologist—An otologist specializes in surgical treatment of inner ear disorders.
Each of these providers can refer to an audiologist if they believe you have a hearing-related need with which we can help. Likewise, we often refer patients to these specialists if we detect an issue we believe should be investigated more closely. A common designator seen with physicians who also provide surgical procedures is F.A.C.S., which stands for Fellow of the American College of Surgery.
Each member of the Associated Audiologists team has earned a doctoral degree and has achieved certification from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. This indicates our commitment to the profession, and to provide you with the highest level of care.