“I compare this to the story about a plumber who took five minutes to fix something in the sink. He asked for $100 – $5 for the part, $95 for his knowledge of identifying which part was faulty.”
When a person suspects they might have a hearing loss, they don’t always first consider seeing an audiologist for a professional hearing evaluation and treatment because they know they can take an online hearing “test” and shop online for a hearing device.
This is a big mistake, and I’ll lay out the specifics of why below. But I’ll start with a concise list of why you need to see a doctor of audiology if you want to be sure you are choosing the right hearing treatment.
- Has a master’s degree in audiology – is a doctor who is an expert on everything to do with the auditory system’s management of hearing and balance.
- Works with all ages – newborns to seniors.
- Performs a full, comprehensive hearing assessment.
- Correctly diagnoses the cause of a hearing loss.
- Partners with ENT specialists when required.
- Treats hearing loss, balance disorders, and tinnitus.
- Is always up to date on the newest hearing technology.
- Fits and programs hearing aids perfectly.
- Gives in-person, long-term hearing care.
- Provides long-term hearing aid maintenance and repair services.
Hearing and the Brain
Because of the correlation of cognitive decline and hearing loss, it is imperative that any hearing loss be treated by an audiologist.
Prescription hearing aids are one of the best treatments for brain health and overall health of the auditory and vestibular systems.
Your Best First Step Toward Better Hearing Is Through a Comprehensive Hearing Assessment With A Doctor Of Audiology.
A Professional Audiological Evaluation
Why can’t you just take a hearing test online? What’s so different about having an audiologist do it?
To answer that, I lay out all the different aspects of an audiological assessment.
Volume – We’ll try to find out how much sound is needed for the person to be able to just detect the presence of sound.
Tones – We perform what is called pure-tone audiometry. We try to find out how much volume is needed for hearing different tones, going from very low bass sounds to high treble sounds. These sounds are similar to a piano keyboard’s eight different pitches.
Speech – We introduce different words to find out how well you can understand speech as we change the pitch and tone.
That’s an important part because there are people who have relatively good hearing but their ability to understand speech is very poor.
Having a mild to moderate degree of hearing impairment does not necessarily mean that you have a hearing loss. It might simply mean that your ability to understand words is affected rather than your ability to hear volume.
Auto acoustic emission – This is to find out how the hair cells in the inner ear/cochlea are functioning and rule out the presence of middle ear disorders.
Auditory brainstem recording – This is to try to rule out a possible benign growth on the auditory nerve.
Videonystagmography (VNG) – A test of your eye movement for balance and dizziness issues.
No online test will do all of these necessary checks, and many times, important findings are missed.
Choosing Hearing Aids Based on Results
We take the results of the hearing evaluation and explain the results to the patient. Then we talk about different devices that we would not consider as adequate treatment and recommend the best hearing devices for their unique hearing needs.
For us at AVI, there are four non-negotiables when it comes to hearing treatment.
- Proper device for your hearing needs
- Proper size
- Proper fit
- Proper management of the device
So when we make our recommendations for the right hearing treatment for each patient, we are very thorough about getting the whole picture first. There’s simply no other way to get this right.
- We take the patient’s lifestyle into consideration. Different styles of hearing aids work better for a mundane lifestyle vs. an active one.
- What are the patient’s expectations?
- What is their physical dexterity?
- Should the hearing device include a tinnitus management setting?
- Is there a need for some other accessories or for connectivity with their cell phone?
- What are the patient’s financial limits if their insurance is limited, or they have to pay out of pocket?
Once all these things are covered, the patient makes a selection, and we make an appointment for a hearing aid delivery.
Programming and Fitting Hearing Aids
Another huge benefit to partnering with an audiologist is in the fit and programming aspect of buying a hearing aid.
Programming a hearing aid means adjusting all the settings re volume, pitch, and tone to match the results of the hearing evaluation.
Verification – After the hearing aid is adjusted properly, we insert a little probe in the ear to measure the amount of sound generated by the hearing device, and we compare this to the hearing loss of the person.
We want to make sure that the sound across all the different fixtures is distributed correctly so it gives the patient good clarity and understanding of speech.
Training – We explain how to properly insert the hearing device, do proper maintenance, connect with cell phones or other accessories, and navigate any apps that work with the device.
Hearing treatment is a process. It cannot work well as a “Here is a device. Put it on” purchase. It takes time to adjust and keep adjusting a device until it works perfectly.
The follow-up appointment is anywhere between one to two weeks post-delivery. This is just to make sure that everything is going well and that the patient has no other questions.
There’s always an adjustment period. Sometimes we’ll do different types of additional verification and programming with the hearing aid, just to make sure that the satisfaction of the patient is fulfilled.
The Cost of Being Seen by a Hearing Professional
Obviously, the major issue most untreated people bring up is the price concern.
It’s true – when people purchase hearing instruments in a traditional way, it’s going to cost more. But I compare this to the story about a plumber who took five minutes to fix something in the sink. Then he asked for $100 – $5 for the part, $95 for his knowledge of identifying which part was faulty.
In the same way, a patient is being charged for the hearing device and all the additional work and maintenance by a trusted professional.
In some countries in Europe, hearing aids are free, but the percentage of hearing aid users is about the same. This makes me believe that people believe that the value they’re going to get from the hearing aids is not really going to justify any price, even if they are free.
A study on what prevents people from buying hearing aids revealed that price was only one of the factors, along with vanity, the stigma attached to wearing hearing aids, and also the fact that hearing aids had such a bad reputation.
Can I Buy a Hearing Aid without Consulting an Audiologist?
Yes, you can. But for the reasons laid out above, we don’t recommend it at all. Of all the services an audiologist provides, the hearing assessment is the most vital part of the right diagnosis and treatment plan.
If this is not done by an expert, a serious medical condition might be missed, or a person might find they don’t have a hearing loss at all – the muffled sounds were simply a buildup of earwax.
If you suspect you or a loved one has a hearing loss, book your professional hearing evaluation as the best first step you could ever take. We’ll give you the results immediately and recommend the best hearing treatment for your needs alone.
Then we’ll walk with you on your hearing journey to ensure you will always have the best hearing care possible.