Being a hearing care professional is a multifaced job. HCPs provide ongoing, personalized care, like testing, advising, cleaning, and hearing aid maintenance, throughout your hearing journey. They even have skills and training that some doctors don't when it comes to matching you to the right solution.
Hearing care professionals include otolaryngologists (ENT doctors), audiologists and hearing instrument specialists. All three are trained and licensed to care for your hearing, though their jobs differ in scope and level of expertise. Depending on where you are in your hearing journey, you might work with one or more of them, as each specializes in different areas. Let’s take a closer look at each profession:
A hearing instrument specialist, or hearing aid specialist, is a certified, licensed professional who is trained to test for and evaluate hearing loss and custom-fit and 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 might work in a hospital, at a private practice alongside an audiologist or otolaryngologist (ENT doctor), or at a retail location for a hearing aid company like Miracle-Ear.
It is recommended that you see a hearing instrument specialist if:
Because of their unique expertise, hearing instrument specialists, audiologists and ENTs often work hand in hand. For example, your hearing instrument specialist will refer you to an ENT if you show signs of an underlying medical condition, and your ENT or audiologist may recommend you see a hearing instrument specialist to get fitted for hearing aids.
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. Some also specialize in areas such as pediatrics, tinnitus, cochlear implants and balance evaluation and therapy.
It's recommended that you see an audiologist if:
Also known as ear-nose-throat doctors (ENTs), otolaryngologists are physicians 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 otolaryngologist if:
Hearing instrument specialists are responsible for fitting, programming, adjusting and maintaining hearing aids, as well as performing important ear and hearing evaluations that are used to determine which hearing aids might be right for a person. 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.
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.
In your first visits, your hearing instrument specialist will ask a series of questions to evaluate your lifestyle and how your hearing may be affecting your daily life. Hear are some examples you can expect - and think about in advance:
● Are you experiencing any changes in your hearing?
● Do you take any medications?
● Is there a history of hearing loss in your family?
● Are you exposed to loud noises at work?
● Do your hobbies involve any loud noises?
Your HIS will perform several tests and evaluations to better understand the extent of your hearing loss. First, your provider will do an otoscopic exam, which is an ear canal inspection to check for common problems that impact hearing ability, such as excessive wax or damage to the eardrum.
Next, your HIS will perform a hearing evaluation to establish the extent of your hearing loss. This typically involves a hearing threshold test to determine your degree of hearing loss, and a speech discrimination test to test your ability to hear and understand conversation in varied environments. Both tests help your provider more accurately pinpoint your unique needs.
After your exams, your provider will sit down with you to review the results of each section of the hearing test to give you a clear understanding of how your needs can best be addressed.
Your partnership with your hearing care provider doesn't end with the purchase and fitting of your new hearing ais. Aftercare is essential to extending the life of your hearing aids and staying on top of any changes in your hearing health - that's why Miracle-Ear offers lifetime aftercare* to customers free of charge. Your provider will establish a schedule each year for cleaning, tune ups and other maintenance procedures.
At these regular hearing health checkups, your provider can also make any necessary adjustments to your hearing aids to accommodate for any changes in your hearing over time. Your hearing care professional will conduct a free annual hearing evaluation to determine if anyhting has changed in your hearing and update your hearing aid settings accordingly. Establishing a consistent sechedule of maintenance checkups and visits with your hearing care professionals goes a long way to maximize the lifespan of your hearing aids and supporting your hearing.
Audiology is a science that looks at hearing and balance related disorders. Meet our in-house audiologists who provide insight on hearing health, hearing loss and hearing aids.
Selecting your hearing aids can be an overwhelming decision. Luckily, Miracle-Ear can support you with decades of experience, our supportive and skilled staff, and high-quality technology.