A Doctor of Audiology has the professional expertise, training and experience needed to properly address your hearing health concerns.
Why Choose an Audiologist?
Hearing health is important, and it deserves the expert care and attention that is provided by an Audiologist. Some people might seek hearing solutions through a hearing aid dealer instead of an Audiologist if lured by an offer of “a free hearing test” or because they lack the awareness that there are significant qualification differences between the two disciplines. (Since the Audiologist’s professional “scope of practice” includes dispensing hearing aids, it is easy to understand how people might be confused.) Others could be misled if a hearing aid dealer wears a white coat, since that symbolically suggests the status of a medical professional, such as a Doctor of Audiology.
If you are unclear about the significant qualification distinctions, or why it’s important to seek the expertise of an Audiologist, here’s the scoop:
Doctors of Audiology undergo rigorous training through accredited programs requiring at least 8 years of post-secondary education (4 years college undergraduate degree followed by 4 years Audiology studies at the doctoral level.) Audiologists must complete clinical rotations and supervised externships prior to receiving national certification and state licensure, and they must stay current in their practices and meet ongoing continuing education requirements.
Audiologists are the uniquely qualified primary healthcare professionals extensively trained in the medical assessment of hearing, including diagnosis, treatment, management, and monitoring of disorders of the hearing and balance systems. Their training focuses on aspects hearing loss rehabilitation and includes expertise in the fitting of hearing aids. Audiologists can identify a wide variety of pathology and underlying medical conditions of the hearing and balance systems, and they understand when it is appropriate to refer these cases for medical or surgical treatment.
If hearing aids have been recommended within the intervention treatment plan, Audiologists can readily apply their extensive knowledge and expertise in “amplification best practices,” using appropriate guidelines associated with high-caliber fitting protocols and long-term follow-up care. (The best hearing aid fittings always depend upon detailed hearing evaluations, and are ideally coupled with use of pre- and post-fitting surveys and “real ear” or speech mapping measures that foster positive outcomes.)
In accordance with Alaska regulations, state-licensed Audiologists are “dual-licensed” as both Audiologists and hearing aid dispensers. A licensed Audiologist’s extensive medical training and educational requirements far exceed those of a non-audiologist hearing aid dispenser, however. Per Alaska law, non-audiologist hearing aid dealers need only to have a high school diploma or GED. Alaska’s hearing aid dealer regulations are the nation’s most lax, including no requirements for additional hearing aid training or schooling as well as no apprenticeship, certification, continuing education, etc.
Hearing Aid Dispenser/Hearing Aid Dealer/Hearing Instrument Specialist (HIS or HIS-BC)
Non-Audiologist hearing aid dispensers are licensed only to sell and fit hearing aids. Alaska law requires them to include a disclaimer in all their printed advertisements: “Alaska law permits a hearing aid dispensers who is not a licensed audiologist…to test hearing only for the purposes of selling hearing aids; the tests given by hearing aid dispensers are not to be used to diagnose the cause of hearing impairment.” Notably, hearing tests that are not “diagnostic,” are also insufficient to meet “medical necessity” requirements for hearing aid insurance benefits. (Persons wishing to use these insurance benefits need to have a “diagnostic test” that is performed by an Audiologist.) Alaska law also prohibits non-audiologist hearing aid dealers from charging for their (non-diagnostic) tests, so an offer of “free hearing tests” is another indicator of a non-Audiologist hearing aid dealer.
Alaska has a shortage of medical providers, including Audiologists, so some Audiology practices have started to address this by hiring skilled hearing aid dealers who, with the assistance of oversight and training provided by the Audiologist, may fit hearing aids for some people, especially those who have non-complex hearing losses. The hearing aid dealer would remain unqualified to perform diagnostic hearing tests under such a scenario, however.