Audiologists are the primary healthcare professionals with the expertise to evaluate, diagnose, treat and manage hearing loss. They can also be licensed to prescribe, fit, and dispense hearing aids when appropriate. Audiologists typically hold a Doctor of Audiology (AuD) degree, and must meet strict national clinical competency requirements and pass rigorous testing.
It can be unclear to the general public that there is a world of difference separating the caliber of knowledge, skills and training that Audiologists and non-audiologist Hearing Aid Dealers/Hearing Instrument Specialists must possess. Per state regulations, Alaska-licensed Audiologists are automatically “dual-licensed” as both Audiologists and Hearing Aid Dealers, however the same is not true for non-audiologist Hearing Aid Dealers. The educational requirements to qualify as a licensed Hearing Aid Dealer in Alaska are the nation’s most lax: a high school (or GED) diploma and no specialized training. Alaska law forbids non-audiologist hearing aid dealers from charging fees for any hearing tests they perform, and they are required to 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.”
In regards to the diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of hearing loss, the medical expertise that distinguishes an Audiologist from a non-Audiologist hearing aid dealer is critical. As noted below in (Questions to ask when choosing a hearing provider), the provider type is also particularly important for someone who hopes to use their hearing aid insurance benefits to help with the purchase of hearing aids. Testing by an Audiologist will be necessary to properly establish “medical necessity” that is required for an insurance claim. This requirement cannot not be legally satisfied through the type of “free hearing test” that a licensed hearing aid dealer is allowed to perform, but rather, it can only be satisfied via a current diagnostic hearing evaluation performed by an Audiologist.