Audiology is the study of hearing, and Audiologists are the primary healthcare professionals with expertise to evaluate, diagnose, treat and manage hearing loss. Audiologist hold a Doctor of Audiology (AuD) degree and must pass rigorous testing and meet strict national clinical competency requirements. They are also qualified to prescribe, fit, and dispense hearing aids.
In Alaska, Audiologist are “dual-licensed” as Audiologists and Hearing Aid Dealers. The same is not true for non-audiologist Hearing Aid Dealers/Dispensers however, so it may be unclear to the public that the two possess vastly different qualifications. Alaska Hearing Aid Dealer educational requirements are the nation’s most lax: only a high school graduation or GED; no specialized training.
The distinction between audiologist and non-audiologist hearing aid dealer is especially critical when seeking medical care for hearing loss. It is also important when medical insurance helps pay for hearing aids. The insurance requirements to establish “medical necessity” are only met through the diagnostic hearing evaluation performed by an Audiologist – but never via “free hearing tests” performed by non-audiologist hearing aid dealers.
Non-audiologist hearing aid dealers are not allowed to charge testing fees. Alaska law further stipulates that they include the following disclaimer in all their printed advertisements: “Alaska law permits a hearing aid dealer who is not a licensed audiologist to test hearing only for the purposes of selling hearing aids; the tests given by a hearing aid dealer are not to be used to diagnose the cause of hearing impairment.”