How to Find A Good Audiologist: Steps and Questions to Ask
As an audiologist, I understand the importance of finding the right professional to support your hearing journey. Many people need help in the process, sometimes having tried methods that don't provide the benefit they need. For example, one gentleman I worked with reported that the devices he purchased online didn't help much. After a comprehensive hearing test, I was able to steer him in the right direction toward hearing care and technology that would benefit him more. Now it's your turn! Don't worry, I've got you covered. Many patients seek help from an audiologist, but choosing the right one can be overwhelming. Several factors come into play in finding the right fit for your hearing healthcare.
I’ve put together this guide to help you find a good audiologist by sharing some steps to follow and questions to ask. I hope this helps you make an informed decision and receive the best care possible.
Finding an audiologist is not always a straightforward task. It can be a bit messy with so many options out there. But here's the key - you need someone who not only has the expertise but also makes you feel at ease. You want to feel comfortable talking to them, including honest feedback about what is (and isn't) working for you.
Are you interested in cochlear implants, tinnitus, or hearing aids?
When choosing an audiologist, it is crucial to consider your specific needs and interests. For instance, some may specialize in pediatric audiology, while others have more experience with tinnitus or cochlear implants. When it comes to hearing aids, are you open to any brand or technology recommendations from the professional? Or do you have a clear brand in mind? The answers to these questions help determine your next best course of action. For example, if you've been wearing Starkey hearing aids for years and have recently relocated, it makes sense to stick with the brand you're familiar with and seek out an audiologist in your area that works with Starkey hearing aids. I say this because most patients, with some exceptions, do best with the sound quality and technology they are familiar with.
It's essential to remember that finding the right audiologist for your needs may take some time and patience. Still, the outcome - improved hearing health and quality of life - is definitely worth the effort.
Which group do you fall in?
New patients usually fall into two main groups when looking for hearing aid care. Let's start by talking about these two:
Group 1 - New to hearing aid technology, open to any technology with no specific brand in mind.
Group 2 - Experienced hearing aid user with a specific brand or new to hearing aid technology but interested in a particular brand.
Group 1 - Open to Any Hearing Technology
If you're open to any hearing technology and have no specific brand preference, it's most advantageous to seek an excellent audiologist in your vicinity. All of the top six manufacturers produce exceptional products, but the key to a successful hearing journey often lies in the hands of the hearing care professional. So let's talk about the essential things to look for when it comes to who you work with.
- Personality and Comfort
Hearing Care Professional - Education
There are two main types of hearing care professionals you could work with: audiologists and hearing aid dispensers. Audiologists have received in-depth, higher-level education and are experts in hearing healthcare. Most audiologists in the US have completed a four-year doctoral program with extensive training in diagnosing and treating hearing loss and vestibular disorders. Audiologists who completed their training before the doctoral degree shift in the early 2000s have a master's degree with decades of experience. Requirements for hearing aid dispensers vary by state but typically require a high school diploma, six months or more of training, and passing a written and practical exam. Simple cases could work with either type of hearing care professional. However, if your situation is complex, look for an audiologist.
Personality and Comfort Level with Hearing Care Professional
Just as crucial as the professional's qualifications and experience is the personal bond and comfort level you develop with your hearing care professional. This is not to be underestimated, as adjusting to hearing aid technology can be a long-term process, often requiring many follow-up visits, adjustments, and consultations. Therefore, selecting a professional with whom you can communicate openly and comfortably becomes essential. You will need to feel at ease discussing your experiences, concerns, or frustrations as you navigate your hearing journey. A good professional should make you feel heard, understood, and valued while offering patient, empathetic guidance. Remember, this is a partnership, and finding someone who you connect well with can significantly enhance the process and outcome of your hearing care journey.
A skilled audiologist will have a deep understanding of the intricacies of the brands they work with most frequently. Their expertise will allow them to align your unique hearing needs with the appropriate technology, ensuring you receive the best possible care and results. The audiologist's knowledge of these nuanced brand differences and their ability to apply them effectively to individual hearing profiles often leads to a superior hearing experience.
It is essential to consider the geographic proximity of your audiologist. No matter how skilled or experienced the provider might be, if their location necessitates a two-hour drive every time a repair or follow-up visit is needed, that is less than optimal. Accessibility and convenience should not be overlooked when choosing your hearing care provider. Try to find a high-quality audiologist within a comfortable travel distance to ensure your hearing care journey is as stress-free and efficient as possible. Remember, regular visits for adjustments, consultations, or repairs are often part of the process, and minimizing travel time can significantly enhance your experience.
Finding an Audiologist - Where to Begin
The first step towards finding a good audiologist is to search for one in your area. You can start by asking for a referral from your primary care physician. If you have friends or family members who wear hearing aids, you can also ask for their recommendations. Additionally, you can search for audiologists online at ASHA ProFind or check the websites of hearing aid manufacturers to find a provider in your area. While Google reviews can also tell you something, the best referrals are often from word of mouth.
Group 2 - Specific Brand in Mind
Now, if you're at a different starting point and either have experience wearing a particular brand already or are new to hearing aids but want a specific brand, how you'll go about this is a bit different. If you have a particular brand or type of hearing aid in mind, it is essential to find an audiologist familiar with that brand. This will narrow your options, as some audiologists may only work with certain brands rather than others. While the other considerations still matter, such as education and personality, narrowing your options ensures a better fit.
How to Find an Audiologist Who Works With Your Brand
You can use several strategies to find an audiologist who works with your preferred brand. One of the most straightforward options is to visit the manufacturer's website. Most manufacturers have a 'Find a Provider' or 'Find a Clinic' feature on their website, where you can locate a clinic that carries their products in your area. Another option is to contact the manufacturer directly and request a list of local providers.
In addition, you can also leverage your network. If you have friends or family who wear the same brand of hearing aids, they may be able to recommend a provider. Finally, consider calling audiology clinics nearby and asking if they work with your chosen brand. This not only helps confirm whether they offer the product you want but also provides an opportunity to gauge the customer service and professionalism of the clinic. Remember, the goal is not just finding a provider who offers your preferred brand but also one who provides quality, patient-centered service.
Contacting a Clinic
When reaching out to potential audiology clinics, gathering as much information as possible is beneficial to ensure you're making an informed choice. A helpful question would be, "What percentage of your patients typically choose [insert your preferred brand]?" This inquiry helps ascertain whether the clinic frequently works with your preferred brand without sounding too direct or demanding. It gives you an insight into their experience with the brand and helps gauge whether they will likely provide the specific expertise and services you require. Remember, your aim is to find a clinic that works with your desired brand and has the necessary experience and knowledge to support your hearing needs effectively.
Questions to Ask
While choosing an audiologist, it is also advisable to consider the following questions:
- Do you use Real-Ear Measurement? Real-Ear Measurement is a verification method that ensures the output of your hearing aids is fit properly. It's one tool audiologists use and is considered the best practice in the industry. It guarantees that your hearing aids are programmed to your unique hearing loss and ear acoustics.
- What is your process if my hearing aid needs repair? Understanding the clinic's repair policy, including whether you need to drop off the hearing aid, schedule an appointment, or can walk in, will help keep the process smooth and stress-free.
- Do you offer loaner devices if they need to go out for repair? If your hearing aids need repair, having a loaner device ensures you aren't left without hearing assistance during the repair period. The availability of loaner devices is a mark of a clinic's commitment to continuous patient care.
- What is your pricing scale? Transparency about costs is crucial. Make sure to ask about the pricing scale and any additional expenses that might occur, such as hearing aid repairs or follow-up visits.
- Do you work with insurance? If you have insurance coverage for hearing aids, it's vital to ensure the audiologist accepts your insurance. Read more about insurance coverage here.
Remember, the objective of these questions is to help you find an audiologist who is proficient with your preferred brand and offers a comprehensive, patient-centered service.
Are they priced fairly?
Hearing aids can be expensive, and costs can vary depending on the level of service, care model, and geographic location. Therefore, it is essential to ask for the cost of the hearing aids and the services included in the price, including fittings, follow-up visits, and maintenance. Most clinics include the cost of follow-up visits and services in the price, called a bundled care model. However, some clinics offer an unbundled model, meaning a lower up-front cost but will require additional fees per service (e.g., follow-up appointments and other services). Ensure that the price quoted includes everything you need and that you are comfortable paying the fee.
You can review our hearing aid price guide here to gain perspective on national averages for top brands.
During the Visit - What to Expect
During the initial visit, the audiologist will conduct a hearing evaluation to assess your hearing if you've not yet had a recent hearing test. Based on the results, the provider will recommend the best course of action, including hearing aids or assistive technology, as deemed appropriate. The provider will also take the time to explain the results to you and answer any questions. After your hearing test, you'll have a hearing aid evaluation or consultation. In this appointment, they will discuss options and help you choose a hearing aid that fits your lifestyle, budget, and hearing needs. Some clinics will also give you a demo of hearing technology in the office so you can experience what it sounds like and ask any questions.
Finding a good audiologist can be challenging, but receiving the best care possible is critical. You can find an audiologist who meets your needs and preferences by following the steps and asking the right questions. Remember that the provider you choose is essential to your hearing journey, so take your time, research, and make an informed decision. Finally, trust your intuition, and choose a provider you feel comfortable communicating with and your partner in caring for your hearing.