Our hearing care specialists do far more than just sell you a hearing aid—they provide ongoing, personalized care throughout your hearing journey. From helping you find the perfect solution to administering follow-up care, our hearing care specialists have skills and training that even doctors don’t when it comes to matching you to the right solution. Learn why working with a Miracle-Ear hearing specialist can make all the difference for your hearing.
Hearing instrument specialist, audiologist, ENT doctor—what’s the difference?
Hearing health care professionals include otolaryngologists (ENT doctors), audiologists and hearing instrument specialists. All three are trained and licensed to care for your hearing, though they differ in the scope and level of their expertise. Depending on where you are in your hearing journey, you may work with one or more of them, as each specializes in different services. Let’s take a closer look at each profession:
Otolaryngologist (ENT doctor)
Also known as ear-nose-throat doctors (ENTs), otolaryngologists are physicians (MD or DO) who specialize in the medical and surgical treatment of ear, nose, throat, head and neck disorders. They are trained to diagnose and treat ear diseases and are the only hearing health care professionals who can prescribe medication and perform surgery for hearing related problems.
It is recommended you see an ENT doctor if:
- You experience ear pain
- You experience balance issues or dizziness
- You have hearing loss as a result of head trauma
- You have hearing loss that could be linked to another medical issue
- You have a hearing problem that may require medicinal or surgical treatment
- You experience a sudden hearing loss
Audiologists are trained to handle hearing and balance disorders. They typically deal with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of hearing problems, such as age-related hearing loss and auditory processing disorders. Audiologists are required to obtain a doctoral degree in audiology (the science of hearing and balance disorders) in order to begin practicing, but do not hold a medical degree.
Audiologists provide hearing rehabilitation through the use of hearing aids and providing assistance with methods such as auditory training, listening skills improvement and assistive listening devices. They may also specialize in areas such as pediatrics, tinnitus, cochlear implants and balance evaluation and therapy.
It is recommended you see an audiologist if:
- You’re concerned about hearing loss
- You’re concerned about a child with hearing loss
- You have earwax buildup
- You experience tinnitus
- Your family complains that you have difficulty hearing them
- You require the TV to be turned up tool loud
Hearing Instrument Specialist (HIS)
A hearing instrument specialist, or hearing aid specialist, is a certified, licensed professional who is trained to test for and evaluate hearing loss, custom-fit and custom-program hearing aids to each individual’s unique hearing profile (after all, no two ears are the same!). They are also trained to adjust, clean and maintain the devices and provide education on proper hearing aid usage.
A hearing instrument specialist may work in a hospital, at a private practice alongside an audiologist or ENT doctor, or at a retail location for a hearing aid company like Miracle-Ear.
It is recommended you see a hearing instrument specialist if:
- You want to learn if a new type of hearing aid is right for you
- You need help choosing a hearing aid that fits your lifestyle
- You value ongoing hearing aid maintenance and care (regular cleanings, adjustments & repairs)
Because of their unique expertise, hearing instrument specialists, audiologists and ENT doctors often work hand in hand. For example, your hearing instrument specialist will refer you to an ENT doctor if you show signs of an underlying medical condition, and your ENT doctor or audiologist may recommend you see a hearing instrument specialist to get fitted for hearing aids.
What training and qualifications do hearing instrument specialists have?
Hearing instrument specialists are responsible for fitting, programming, adjusting and maintaining hearing aids, as well as performing important ear and hearing evaluations for the determination of a hearing aid. Before they can get to work, they must meet high standards of training, preparation and examination.
They are often required to work for up to two years supervised by a licensed hearing instrument specialist before they can be eligible for a license, though licensing requirements vary from state to state. In addition to passing a licensure exam, some candidates may choose to attend hearing aid technician school, a two-year degree program offered through community colleges, or complete a special training program. After obtaining a license, many go on to apply for board certification through the National Board for Certification in Hearing Instrument Sciences.
Miracle-Ear’s hearing aid specialists are required to complete a rigorous certification program in addition to their licensure and must re-certify every year to ensure they continuously provide the highest level of service.
What can I expect from my hearing instrument specialist?
When it comes to hearing loss, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. That’s why hearing instrument specialists are trained to assess not only your hearing profile, but your lifestyle and interests as well.
What can I expect at my first office appointment?
From the very first appointment, you can count on your hearing care provider to thoroughly listen to and address your concerns and desired improvements. Let’s walk through a typical first visit:
- Your hearing care provider will talk with you about your hearing health history and any changes in your hearing.
- He or she will then perform an otoscopic exam, which is simply an ear canal inspection to check for common problems that impact hearing ability (excessive wax buildup, damage to the eardrum, etc.).
- Next, your provider will do a hearing evaluation to determine your degree of hearing loss. This involves a sophisticated series of tests that helps your provider pinpoint your unique needs.
- Afterward, he or she will sit down with you to review the results so you have a clear understanding of what they mean.
If your results indicate that you could benefit from a hearing aid, your provider will provide you demo hearing aids to try out. He or she will discuss and select options that are best suited to your lifestyle, whether you’re an avid bike rider, theatergoer or music lover (or all three!).
What happens next? Once you have the right solution, the fitting process begins. However, your partnership with your provider doesn’t end with the purchase of your new hearing aids. Proper aftercare is essential to extending the life of your hearing aids—that’s why Miracle-Ear offers lifetime aftercare to customers free of charge. Your provider will establish a schedule each year for cleanings, adjustments and other maintenance procedures.
Why is aftercare so important?
Hearing loss doesn’t just go away once you start using hearing aids. Your hearing may continue to change over time, which means your hearing aids will need adjustments to accommodate for those changes. That’s why doctors encourage you have your hearing checked once a year. Your hearing care professional will conduct a free annual hearing evaluation to determine if anything has changed in your hearing and update your hearing aids settings accordingly.Moisture and earwax buildup can also take a toll on your hearing aids. Be sure to clean your hearing aids daily, but regular care from your hearing care professional goes a long way to minimize maximize the lifespan of your hearing aids and keep you hearing happily and healthily.