Hearing Instrument Specialists
Hearing instrument specialists are health care professionals who specialize in testing your hearing to determine the type and degree of your hearing loss, as well as recommend and fit appropriate hearing aid technology. They are up-to-date on the latest technology and accessories available in the field and are experienced in performing and evaluating hearing loss in adults.
Hearing instrument specialists also provide follow-up care for your hearing aid fitting, including repairs, adjustments, and maintenance on your hearing aids. They must be either board-certified or licensed by their state. Most states also require an apprenticeship or a specified period of practical experience before they are licensed.
Audiologists and Doctors of Audiology
You can think of an audiologist primarily as a hearing doctor. They are a licensed hearing health care professional who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss and balance disorders in adults and children.
Most audiologists hold a Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) degree, although you may see other degrees within the field (Ph.D., Sc.D., or M.S.). Audiologists provide hearing exams; work with fitting, adjusting, and maintenance of hearing aids; and often offer the following services:
• Pediatric testing and hearing care
• Treatment for balance disorders and tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
• Hearing and speech rehabilitation programs
They have comprehensive knowledge of the hearing and balance systems. They also have extensive training in sound reproduction, which is critical to the accurate fitting and adjustment of hearing aids.
Otolaryngologists are physicians (M.D.s) who specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases of the ears, nose, mouth, and throat. Trained in both medicine and surgery, otolaryngologists typically treat the types of profound hearing loss that require pharmaceutical or surgical treatment, like cochlear implants. These types of hearing loss include loss caused by trauma, infection, or benign tumors in the ear.
After completing a medical course of treatment, otolaryngologists often refer patients to an audiologist for the prescription and fitting of digital hearing aids or counseling to help redevelop communication and language recognition skills.
No matter the type of specialist you see for your hearing needs, the most crucial factor is the overall experience they provide, which should include a comprehensive approach to diagnosing, treating, and reevaluating your hearing. Partnering with a professional who listens to your needs is critical to the success of your treatment plan.