When you have hearing problems, there are a few different professionals you can choose to see. If you first visit your primary care physician, they may refer you to an audiologist or hearing aid specialist. Often, some confusion arises when it comes to the difference between an audiologist and a hearing aid specialist. While both professionals are able to assist you when you have hearing loss, they are versed and trained in different courses. To clear up the confusion, let's consider the differences.

What is an audiologist?

An audiologist is a professional who holds either a Master's or Doctoral Degree in audiology. A professional who has completed such a route will generally have studied for up to eight years to achieve this. Audiologists can practice a vast range of complex and specialized tasks, including the diagnosis and treatment of hearing or balance problems. Most audiologists will have studied areas to include genetics, pharmacology, communication, physiology and disorders of balance. An audiologist can evaluate a patient's hearing as well as providing information and recommendations. An audiologist can provide different devices that can assist the patient's hearing. If a patient requires more than a hearing aid, an audiologist can guide the patient to use an assistive listening device (ALD).

An assistive listening device is a technology that can be used by those with hearing problems to enhance the hearing of conventional audio technologies. An ALD can help a patient with hearing loss to hear the sounds in their environment more clearly. ALDs are separate from hearing aids and usually are not wearable. They can easily interact with the technology around an individual's home, such as televisions or phones. An ALS can help a person with hearing loss to distinguish and detect sounds and also improve their speech quality.

An audiologist can help patients and their families to learn about listening and communication practices that will help improve their hearing problems. For those who require counseling associated with their hearing loss, an audiologist has the right skills and knowledge. An audiologist has extensive expertise and the ability to work alongside an otolaryngologist to evaluate and help patients who have medical-related hearing loss.

What is a hearing aid specialist?

A hearing aid specialist will have a high school education, and in some cases, the professional will also have been required to complete a degree, depending on the state they are working in. A hearing aid specialist would also have taken and passed an associated practical and written exam to gain the appropriate license. It is the National Hearing Instrument Society who certify hearing aid specialists. A hearing aid specialist can help those with hearing loss to fit a hearing aid and provide advice on its use and maintenance.

What's the difference?

The main difference lies in the fact that the hearing aid specialist has been trained in hearing devices primarily. An audiologist has a degree that covers a broader range of specialization in hearing (also to include the fitting of hearing devices). With this in mind, many people with hearing problems choose an audiologist due to their advanced training across the entire spectrum of hearing health care. An audiologist can evaluate an individual's entire auditory issues. They can make a diagnosis which includes the functions of the patient's brain, and they can determine the cause of the hearing loss as well as dealing with the problem.

Which one is for me?

Some patients may end up seeing both! Often, it depends on who your doctor refers you to and also on the type of hearing loss that you have. If you are looking for diagnosis and treatment via an advanced practitioner, who specializes across all aspects of hearing health, then you should choose an audiologist. Your audiologist will be able to help you with their vast knowledge of physics, anatomy and genetics to make a full assessment. You will be given information about both the causes and treatments associated with your hearing loss. With an audiologist, you can get your hearing aid fitting and also a more thorough understanding of your hearing loss and your individual needs.

If you would like to learn more, you can contact Baker Audiology and Hearing Aids at (605) 610-3466. Our team of experienced audiologists will be happy to assist you with any queries or information that you should need. Hearing loss can be a hard and confusing time, yet with the medical care and technology at our disposal today, it doesn't have to remain that way.