If you have problems with your hearing then there are several different types of experts who you might need to see. You might visit your GP or an ENT specialist first to find out if there is a medical cause for your hearing loss. Sometimes the doctor will find that there is a treatable problem like an ear infection or blockage. However, in other cases you may need to see a different kind of expert to get more tests or help with your hearing loss. You may be referred to an audiologist or a hearing aid specialist. What is the difference between these two experts on hearing loss?
Similarities Between Audiologists and Hearing Aid Specialists
Audiologists and hearing aid specialists both specialise in evaluating and tackling hearing problems. Although neither of them are medical doctors, they will still have lots of training and experience in their field. Both of them can assess your hearing and advise you on your options. Sometimes they perform the same kinds of tests for their patients and deal with the same types of hearing problems. However, audiologists can perform a wider range of tests and treatments. Hearing aid specialists focus specifically on fitting you with the right hearing aid. You are more likely to see a hearing aid specialist if you have age-related hearing loss or another relatively simple condition that can be tackled with a hearing aid.
The differences between audiologists and hearing aid specialists are quite subtle, so it is easy to get confused about which expert you are seeing. However, there are some key differences in what these two professionals can do for you. Basically, a hearing aid specialist can test your hearing and fit you with a hearing aid. An audiologist can assess and diagnose a wider range of hearing and balance problems.
An audiologist can work out what is wrong if you have problems with your hearing or balance. You may visit them to have specialist tests that your doctor or a hearing aid specialist isn’t able to perform.
- Can assess hearing problems and balance disorders (although some may specialise in one area more than the other)
- Are able to diagnose the causes of hearing and balance problems
- Offer more specialised tests than your GP, ENT consultant or hearing aid specialist
- Can recommend or fit hearing aids, but also offer additional services such as working with Cochlear implants and providing rehab for balance disorders
- Are qualified to treat rarer types of hearing loss and can help in more complex cases, such as infants or those with additional needs
Hearing Aid Specialist
A hearing aid specialist can test your hearing and help you to get a hearing aid that suits your needs. Seeing a hearing aid specialist is a bit like going to an optician to get glasses.
Hearing aid specialists:
- Can test your hearing to assess the type and extent of your hearing loss
- Will advise you on which type of hearing aid is best for you, if you are a suitable candidate
- Help to fit the hearing aid and ensure that you can use and care for it properly
- Usually work with people who have age-related hearing loss, but can fit hearing aids for people with other kinds of hearing problems (although these may need to be assessed by an audiologist or treated by a doctor first)
Which One Should You See?
If you have hearing problems then you may need to see an audiologist or a hearing aid specialist, but which one is right for you?
You will usually only need to see an audiologist if you are referred to one by another doctor, such as your ENT consultant. Audiologists tend to deal with more specialised cases then hearing aid specialists, so your doctor may refer you to one in order to learn more about your condition. The audiologist will be able to perform additional tests that could help with your diagnosis or ensure that your treatment is more personalised. You might also see an audiologist if you have additional needs that make it harder to give you a hearing test. For example, audiologists can be better equipped to provide hearing tests for babies and young children. Another reason why you may see an audiologist is if you have balance problems, as they can evaluate and treat these as well as hearing loss.
You can see a hearing aid specialist directly or with a referral from your doctor. If you’re worried about your hearing, you can arrange a test without having to see a doctor first. However, the hearing aid specialist may recommend seeing an ENT specialist or audiologist if they notice any other problems like an underlying medical condition. You can also see a doctor first to find out why you are losing your hearing. If the doctor thinks that a hearing aid might help, you will then be sent to a hearing aid specialist to have one fitted. The hearing aid specialist will perform a hearing test and then help you to select and use the right hearing aid. You will be asked back for regular check ups to ensure that you are getting the most from your hearing aids.
Sometimes you might end up seeing both an audiologist and a hearing aid specialist. You might see an audiologist first to get a deeper understanding of your hearing loss, before being referred to a hearing aid specialist to get your hearing aid fitted. Alternatively, you could be referred to an audiologist if your hearing aid specialist detects a more complex problem when testing your hearing. Audiologists, hearing aid specialists, ENT consultants and other experts often have to work together in order to ensure that you get the best possible care.
Will you have your hearing checked by an audiologist or a hearing aid specialist?