If you suspect that you have hearing loss, the first step is to make an appointment to see your family doctor. Your doctor will examine you and ask you questions about your hearing. If an examination reveals a problem that cannot be easily solved, such as the removal of ear wax, a referral may be made to an otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist). An otolaryngologist can make a determination as to whether your condition is medically correctable. From there, you may be referred to a hearing health care professional. Hearing healthcare professionals include Audiologists and Hearing Aid Practitioners. You may have noticed that hearing clinics are often staffed by both.
One of the questions we are often asked is “What is the difference between an Audiologist and a Hearing Aid Practitioner?” Read below for a brief overview:
Audiologists are healthcare professionals who have a minimum of a master’s degree in audiology. Some audiologists may alternatively have a Doctorate in Audiology. With a combination of both academic and clinical training, audiologists are uniquely qualified to provide comprehensive diagnostic assessments to determine the degree and cause of hearing loss. They are qualified to assess, diagnose and treat a broad range of hearing and balance disorders.
Audiologists in Alberta must be registered members of the Alberta College of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists (ACSLPA). Consumers can look for the professional designation of R.Aud or Au.D.
Hearing Aid Practitioners
Hearing Aid Practitioners dispense hearing aids and ensure their clients receive the best possible benefit from their devices. After successfully completing a two year, post-secondary diploma, Hearing Aid Practitioners are granted a practice permit by a provincial regulatory body called The College of Hearing Aid Practitioners of Alberta (CHAPA). In Alberta, many Hearing Aid Practitioners are also certified by the National Board for Certification in Hearing Instrument Sciences and carry the initials NBC-HIS after their names. This provides them with the designation of Registered Hearing Aid Practitioner.
Choosing a Hearing Health Care Professional
In Alberta, both Audiologists and Hearing Aid Practitioners can sell hearing aids, but only audiologists can provide testing and diagnostics in certain medical and legal situations. The cost of a hearing aid will be virtually the same, whether purchased from an audiologist or from a hearing aid practitioner. Ultimately it is up to the consumer to determine where they wish to purchase their hearing aid.
The most important thing when choosing a professional to help you with your hearing loss is to find someone with whom you think you can develop a level of trust and rapport. Be sure to check out things like return policies and warranties. These are very important for your long term happiness with any hearing product. You don’t want to get stuck with a product that is not satisfactory and non-refundable at the same time.
Selecting the right provider for you is very important – in fact it is just as important as the device, its size, or price, as you will likely work with this professional over many years. Remember to ask questions and speak up when you don’t understand. If you are worried you might miss something, it might be a good idea to take a family member or friend with you to your appointment.
For a list of Alberta Health Services Audiology Clinics, click here.