Five questions your hearing healthcare professional wishes you would ask
Today it seems you can find the answer to most any question you have with a few strokes of the keyboard or a tap of the smartphone. There’s a wealth of information on the worldwide web, isn’t there? Can you believe everything you read? Definitely not — and understanding the difference between truth and fiction can be difficult, especially when it comes to your hearing health. What answers can you find online and what should you ask an expert? Here are five questions your hearing healthcare professional wishes you would ask them directly.
What are your credentials?
Not all hearing healthcare professionals have the same level of training or expertise.
- Hearing Instrument Specialist (HIS) or Hearing Aid Specialist (HAS): These professionals conduct and analyze tests to determine the extent and nature of your hearing loss, then dispense hearing instruments designed to address the symptoms.
- Audiologist: These professionals have obtained their doctorate or master’s degree in audiology and are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing and balance problems. They can diagnose and treat hearing loss, including cleaning the ear canal, installing and programming cochlear implants and fitting hearing aids. Although they cannot perform surgery, they are trained to identify medical issues and refer to an ENT or otolaryngologist when necessary.
- ENT: These medical professionals are physicians trained in the medical and surgical treatment of the ears, nose, throat and related structures of the head and neck. You may also hear them called otolaryngologists. These licensed medical doctors can perform surgery, such as cochlear implant surgery, and treat medical problems of the ear, such as ear infections or earaches.
Asking this question starts a dialogue about their areas of proficiency so you can choose which type of professional you want to trust with your hearing healthcare.
How much do hearing devices cost?
“I love that question,” Dr. Will Helton of Helton Hearing Care in Bozeman, Montana said, “And we happily share our information (prices range from $250 to $6,000). I can’t tell you the number of people who call the office thinking hearing devices cost $10,000 each.”
Dr. Helton said once he understands why a person is asking this question, he can help them move forward toward obtaining hearing loss treatment. “It may be a friend calling for another friend, a daughter calling for her mother or a person with a 20-year hearing loss who is so concerned about finances they haven’t done anything about it. The fear of the unknown prevents clients from moving forward to get the assistance they need. If you don’t ask the question, you don’t go anywhere.”
Are all hearing devices the same?
Dr. Helton likes this question, too, because it gives him the opportunity to discuss the features of different hearing aids and why he has chosen a specific manufacturer and model for his patient. Just like eyeglasses or medication, one size does not fit all.
“I may put you in the top of the line because I would not be able to fit your loss with a mid-level or below,” he explains. “My job is to work with different companies and provide the best hearing for that individual.”
What is your aftercare plan and is it included in the hearing device price?
Yes, you should expect to see your hearing healthcare professional after you are fit with your hearing aids — and you should get the specific details of what those follow up visits include in writing. Please don’t rely on verbal assurances of “free service for the life of your hearing aid.” Ask for a written policy and make sure you understand the terminology before you make your purchase.
Do you have walk-in hours?
When choosing your hearing center, ask if they have walk-in hours and, if not, what office policy is in the event you need assistance. Some hearing centers have walk-in hours daily so they can address common hearing aid problems, others require an appointment. Asking this question starts a dialogue about the level of care you can expect from the professional and his staff so you can make an educated decision about where to purchase your hearing devices.