Audiology is the study of hearing disorders, and Audiologists are the primary healthcare professionals with expertise to evaluate, diagnose, treat and manage hearing loss. Audiologists hold a Doctorate of Audiology (AuD) degree, which requires 8 years of higher education, 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 dispensers. However, the same is not true for non-audiologist Hearing Aid Dealers. It is often unclear to the public that the two possess vastly different qualifications. You may be surprised to find out that Alaska’s Hearing Aid Dealer educational requirements are the nation’s most lax: only a high school graduation or GED; no specialized training and no exam to show competency.
The distinction between audiologist and non-audiologist hearing aid dealer is especially critical when seeking medical care for hearing loss. Only Audiologists are trained and qualified to provide comprehensive diagnostic evaluations of a patient’s entire auditory system, from outer ear to brain. The scope of practice for a hearing aid dealer is limited to basic hearing screenings exclusively for the purpose of selling hearing aids to adults along with hearing aid fitting; they are unqualified to diagnose hearing loss.
The difference between the two 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. If a hearing test is free, it’s most likely a sign that you are not being seen by an Audiologist. Because they are unqualified to diagnose hearing loss they also cannot provide diagnosis codes, which are needed in order to bill medical insurance.
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.”
Your hearing health is important. Make sure you know the qualifications of the person that you seek testing and treatment from!
To schedule your appointment with one of our Audiologists, give us a call at 907.789.6780!