How to Choose the Right Hearing Clinic
Starting a hearing healthcare journey can certainly be daunting, but remember, audiologists and audiometrists are trained professionals that are there to help you on your way.
Knowing who to approach and where to go to receive the best care can be tough – life with a hearing impairment can be challenging enough without the extra stress of figuring out who can help.
Audiologist, Audiometrist or ENT
Audiologists are the experts in all aspects relating to hearing loss. They can function independently from all other healthcare professionals due to their extensive training and eight years of education. This means you will find them in a variety of settings such as hospitals, schools, ENT practices and private hearing aid clinics.
They are trained on subjects such as:
- Fitting and adjusting hearing aids
- Diagnosis testing
- Psychoacoustics (the scientific study of sound perception)
- Research processes
- Treatment (hearing aids, cochlear implants, bone anchored hearing aids and more)
- Auditory rehabilitation
- Balance disorders
- Working with all patients from infants to seniors
Audiometrists are hearing care professionals who specialise in the non-medical assessment and management of hearing loss.
Fully trained Audiometrists can:
- Assess hearing by carrying out a hearing test
- Fit and monitor hearing aids
- Create moulds and impressions of patient’s ears to ensure proper fit of hearing aids
- Perform repairs on hearing aids
- Program hearing aids to automatically enhance specific frequencies and keep others at the same level (this is done by using computer software and ensures the patient is not receiving sounds that will be extremely loud or startling)
- Conduct follow up exams with patients to ensure their continuing satisfaction with the devices
Ear-Nose-Throat doctor (ENT)
ENT’s are medical doctors specialising in diseases and conditions of the ear, nose and throat.
They are able to:
- Perform and supervise hearing and balance testing
- Prescribe medications
- Perform surgeries like cochlear implantation and bone anchored hearing aid fitting
Check out our article Audiologists vs Audiometrists if you want to know more.
An Audiologist can be certified to become an Audiology Australia Accredited Audiologist (formerly the Certificate of Clinical Practice (CCP)). Being certified means that they abide by a suite of policies aimed at ensuring audiologist provide services lawfully, safely, and in the clients’ best interests.
This includes meeting:
- Education and training requirements
- Code of Conduct
- Continuing Professional Development programme
- Recency of Practice requirements
You can check if an audiologist is certified by visiting: https://audiology.asn.au/index.cfm/consumers/find-an-audiologist/
It may be a good idea to see your GP to rule out treatable causes of hearing loss, such as earwax or an infection, before committing to a visit to an audiologist.
What happens during a visit to a hearing healthcare practitioner?
Typically, a clinic will offer a short test for people who are unsure whether they have a hearing loss. This usually only takes 15 minutes and will determine whether a full test is necessary.
A full hearing test usually takes around an hour and is typically made up of three parts:
- A conversation about your medical history – including factors that aren’t related to your ears which can have an impact on hearing.
- A physical examination of your inner and outer ear – the professional will look into your ear to examine the canal that runs to the eardrum, this is quite quick and not painful.
- A series of tests which will determine your levels of hearing and speech comprehension. – You will be asked to wear headphones and listen to a series of tones to evaluate the sensitivity of your hearing at different frequency levels.
The results of these test are shown on a graph called an audiogram, this shows:
- The configuration of your hearing loss – the frequencies you are and are not able to hear.
- The severity of your hearing loss – the frequencies you are able to hear and at what volume
If a hearing aid is recommended, your audiologist or audiometrist should then:
- Explain the results of your hearing test (also known as an audiogram)
- Explain the benefits and limitations of different types of hearing aids
- Give you a detailed quote
- Fit hearing aids to your unique requirements
- Agree to a trial period of at least 30 days
- Outline a plan for how to get the most out of your hearing aid, how to best adjust to wearing them, and any future appointments that will be necessary.
- Be available to guide you through matters of hearing aid maintenance and support.
Here are some ways to make sure your experience is a positive one:
Ask for a referral –
If you have a family member or friend that has visited an audiologist, ask them for their opinion and advice.
Ask your GP – they will most likely be able to provide you with the details of someone that they know gives great service.
Look for reviews online, if you hear about a clinic that looks promising, doing a quick google search may show up some reviews that others have left.
Doing these things may help to ease some anxiety around visiting a new medical setting.
Check your insurance –
Medicare does not typically cover hearing tests so, if you have health insurance, you may find that you are covered for some hearing health services.
Hearing tests and hearing aids are usually only included on the higher end premiums, like the gold or platinum packages.
Some insurance providers may require that you get a professional referral to an audiologist to cover the services.
Check a business’ history –
Many of their websites will have customer testimonials that provide you with additional support in determining which place to choose.
If a hearing clinic has been around for 30 years, it is quite likely that they will provide excellent service and care. However, this doesn’t mean that newer clinics will not provide the same excellent service.
Look at the biography for the professionals working at the clinic, their level of education and time spent in the industry can help to put your mind at ease.
Audiologist usually graduate with one of the following qualifications: MSc (Audiology), Au.D., STI, PhD, or ScD, depending on the program and country attended, these credentials can ensure quality.
Distance to the clinic –
You may not have a large option of clinics close to where you live, but ideally, you don’t want to travel too far to find the perfect audiologist.
Travelling for the initial test and fitting may be ok, but it could be bothersome if the device needs maintenance or a check-up, or even if you have some questions about the settings on the hearing aid.
Travelling for hours to the best clinic you can find could prove costly and time-consuming in the future.
Have a list of questions ready –
It can be quite an anxiety-provoking experience, so having questions that you have already thought about ensures you will not leave regretting not asking that one important thing.
It may be helpful to have someone come to the appointment with you, there is often a lot of information given, so a second pair of ears can be beneficial.
See our article – Important questions to ask
Personalised Hearing Care
Finding a good hearing care professional is an essential step in managing hearing loss, here are some questions to ask about hearing aids and follow up appointments to ensure you continue to get the best service.
- Will I see the same professional at each follow-up appointment?
It may be relevant to you to have one dedicated professional, and some clinics may fill in the booking sheet on a first come first serve basis.
Follow up appointments are needed to assess how the hearing aids are working and to guarantee you are getting the most out of them.
If you have any problems with the hearing aid or have any questions about the features, ask if you can call or email to save a trip to the clinic.
- Do you offer a range of different brands?
A manufacturer will own some clinics and only stock one make of hearing aid. Independent or larger clinics tend to offer a range of styles, brands and manufacturers from which to choose.
Hearing aids are indeed not a ‘one size fits all’ device, aids need to be chosen and tailored to fit your ears, your hearing loss and your lifestyle.
- Do you have a trial period for hearing aids?
It is important to be able to try out the hearing aids in different environments as it may take a while for you to get used to wearing them.
Ask if you can have the terms of the trial period in writing, so you know:
- the cost of the trial
- whether the amount is credited to the final price of the aids
- refund policy if you return the hearing aid during the trial period
- Do the hearing aids include a warranty?
Some clinics will include warranties with the purchase of a hearing aid; it may cover parts and labour if the device malfunctions in a certain period after purchase.
Some clinics may include other aftercare services under their warranty, like cleaning or adjustments.
Hearing aids cannot completely restore your hearing, but they can make a huge difference when it comes to quality of life. They are programmed to precisely optimise your residual hearing to help you hear everything you thought you lost, whether that is rustling leaves, the phone ringing or conversational speech in a noisy environment.
Our hearing is such a meaningful sense, allowing us to communicate and interact with the world around us, and improving it can be as easy as making that first step to visit an audiologist. Click here to book a free hearing test now.