March 15, 2013
A new patient recently informed us that another hearing center told her that an audiologist was not necessary for examining her ears and fitting hearing aids. The person she spoke to on the phone also said their hearing testing was always free. This patient eventually came to our office, where we took care of her and allowed her to experience, first hand, the value of having a thorough diagnostic evaluation, an in-depth discussion of any medical, social, lifestyle and psychological factors, and a review of any and all options for management of her problem. It turns out this woman was in need of medical intervention for middle ear pathology before we could proceed with any amplification options. Referrals were made, the ear was treated, and we eventually proceeded with an appropriate course of action.
The business the lady had spoken with is a retail-model center for hearing aids. No audiologists are employed. While this does not prohibit them from dispensing hearing aids, the center did this woman a disservice by suggesting there would be no value in seeing an audiologist. An audiologist is a professional trained not only in hearing diagnostics, but also in recognizing clinical signs and “red flags” signaling the need for further intervention. The intervention may have been medical, surgical, or neurological in nature. The “free testing” they promote is more correctly referred to as a screening. This screening is only sufficient to gauge hearing aid candidacy solely on the basis of hearing levels. It does not indicate the type of hearing loss, the “site of lesion” or part of the system responsible for the problem, the state of the middle ear or the ability to understand speech.
Having the diagnostic information NOT provided by quick free screenings is precisely what allows us to make the most APPROPRIATE recommendations for treatment. We do much more than fit hearing aids with our test results and clinical experience. Our diagnostic test battery has provided physicians and surgeons information that guided further action. MRI, middle ear surgery, medical management of external ear canal infections, ventilation tubes, and even cochlear implants have resulted for some of our patients. Additionally, when hearing aid options are considered, any and all audiometric data is HEAVILY taken into account. With seemingly infinite choices for hearing aid models, a good dispenser will know exactly how to incorporate diagnostic information into the best fit for the INDIVIDUAL patient.
Your ears, communication and hearing are too important to not trust them to qualified professionals. Always find a center you are comfortable with where you will be examined and treated respectfully as a patient, not as a customer. As always, let us keep you on a clear path to good hearing and ear health.