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How to find a hearing health practitioner

Contributed by | Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

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It’s the beginning of another year and, hopefully, hearing health is one of your priorities. If you already have a hearing healthcare professional and are happy with the service they provide, you’re well on your way to better hearing. If that’s not the case, you’ll want to find a professional you can trust to take care of your hearing health needs.

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Hearing centers employ many different
types of hearing health practitioners.

What to look for

Your auditory system is complex and should be trusted to someone who has education in and experience with hearing health. Although there are several different types of hearing healthcare professionals, each with their own educational requirements, all are required to be licensed by the state in which they practice. Which professional you choose depends upon personal preference as well as your medical needs:

ENT — A licensed, medical doctor trained in the medical and surgical treatment of the ears, nose and throat and related structures of the head and neck. You may also hear them called otolaryngologists.
AuD  — Audiologists can diagnose and treat hearing loss, including cleaning the ear canal, installing and programming cochlear implants and fitting hearing aids.
HIS/HAS  — A Hearing Instrument Specialist or Hearing Aid Specialist can conduct and analyze tests to determine the extent and nature of your hearing loss, then dispense hearing instruments designed to address the symptoms.

How to find the right professional for you

Most hearing healthcare professionals are committed to improving their patients’ quality of life through better hearing; however, each one of them is a unique individual with a distinctive personality and philosophy of care. Because you’ll want to build a long-lasting relationship with this professional, you’ll want to put in a little time looking for the one best suited to care for you.

  1. Ask for recommendations
  • Friends and family members. If you know someone who is personally satisfied with the care they are receiving from a hearing healthcare professional, you might like them, too. Ask specific questions about their office staff (are they friendly, efficient?) and the professional’s quality of care (do they explain things well? How long have they been practicing?). If they sound compatible with your expectations, put them on your list of possibilities.
  • Your family physician. You already trust your family physician so ask for a recommendation from her. She may know someone in the community who has a good reputation or to whom she has successfully referred patients in the past. Depending upon your particular health circumstances, your physician may have specific reasons for referring you to a specific hearing health professional over another.
  • The Healthy Hearing website. On this website, you can locate a hearing center near you, as well as read verified patient reviews of local practitioners.
  1. Do some research

Once you have a list of three to five potential hearing healthcare professionals, spend a few minutes researching their qualifications. Do a quick Internet search to find their website, where clinics typically list biographies and credentials of their professionals as well as their philosophy on hearing health. If they don’t have a website, check to see if they are listed in Healthy Hearing’s clinic directory.

It’s also a good idea to give the clinics a call to ask a few questions:

  • Will I see the hearing healthcare professional or an assistant during my hearing evaluation?
  • Do you offer a variety of hearing aid manufacturers?
  • What types of warranties or trial periods for hearing aids are available?
  • What type of training and education do you offer for the hearing aids you sell?
  • If your medical insurance covers testing and treatment, ask if they accept your provider.
  • If your medical insurance does not cover testing and treatment, ask what types of payment plans are available.

Good qualifications and experience are important, but so is working with someone who genuinely likes what they do and takes a personal interest in your care. The front office staff is a good indication of how you can expect to be treated so while you’re asking questions, take note of how you’re being treated. Is the staff courteous or do they seem to be in a hurry? How long did you have to wait on hold? Did you like the answers they provided?

Follow through

Now that you’ve done the research, make a decision and schedule an appointment for a hearing evaluation with the professional or hearing clinic that seems to meet your needs. These additional tips may help your appointment day go smoothly:

  • Allow for enough time to find the office and arrive 15-30 minutes before your appointment so you can fill out any paperwork that’s required.
  • Make a list of any medications you are taking and take it with you. Some medications are ototoxic and, if you are having difficulty with your hearing, may be contributing to the problem.
  • Make a list of any concerns you’ve been having with your hearing, such as ringing in the ears or problems hearing normal conversation. The practitioner will most likely ask you if you have any concerns, so it’s best to write them down ahead of time.

Assess your experience

After your first appointment, do a quick assessment of your experience. Your hearing health is important and it’s vital to feel comfortable with the person you’re trusting with it.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Was I greeted warmly and in a timely fashion?
  • Did the staff make me feel comfortable?
  • Did the professional treat me with respect?
  • Did the professional spend enough time with me?
  • Was I comfortable asking questions?
  • Were my questions answered using terms I understood?

Summary

If you live long enough, the odds for developing some degree of hearing loss are definitely in your favor. Fortunately, research by the National Council on Aging on those with hearing loss and their significant others revealed that hearing loss treatment (such as hearing aids) significantly improved quality of life, including communication with friends and family, family relationships, physical health, social participation and even earning power. Finding the right hearing healthcare professional to take care of your hearing health is the first step in ensuring you’ll be hearing your best for as long as possible.

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