Hearing loss is diagnosed based on the person’s history, behavior, and the results of medical and audiological examinations. If anyone, doctor, or someone else, tells you that nothing can be done about your hearing loss and you should just learn to live with it, seek another opinion.
What should I do if I think I have a hearing loss?
See an ear, nose, and throat doctor (otolaryngologist or otologist) or your primary care physician to see if you have hearing loss and to rule out any medical condition. You may also choose to go to an audiologist directly without seeing a doctor. In this case, you would need to sign a waiver, because currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that you see a physician first. HLAA supports going to an audiologist first.
What will I learn from the doctor?
You will find out from the doctor if you have a hearing loss, what might be causing it, (link to Hearing Loss Causes and Prevention), and if it can be treated. For example, fluid in the middle ear or wax in the ear canal can cause hearing loss.
If you do have a hearing loss, don’t despair. There are several things you can do to hear and cope better in situations that have caused you difficulty in communicating. In the event that you are diagnosed with a hearing loss, the physician should refer you to a qualified hearing health professional for a full hearing test. This test will tell you the degree and type of hearing loss and also determine if you could be helped by hearing aids. The hearing health professional will recommend what type of hearing aid is best for your hearing loss. If the physician finds no medical cause for your hearing loss and does not refer you for further testing and tells you that nothing can be done for you, you should make an appointment directly with a hearing health professional for a full hearing test and evaluation. This will include an audiogram
If a hearing aid is recommended where do I get one? Will my insurance cover it?
Hearing aids are dispensed by audiologists and hearing instrument specialists. There are many types of hearing aids that vary in cost, design, and features. Hearing aids are covered by some private insurance plans, company plans, the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan, and Tricare, the plan for active and retired military and their families. Some plans cover hearing testing, but not hearing aids. Medicaid covers hearing aids for children in some states. Medicare does not cover hearing aids.
Is there anything I should be aware of when buying my hearing aid?
HLAA recommends the following best practices to help you know what to ask for and look for when buying a hearing aid. Download the HLAA publication Purchasing a Hearing Aid: A Consumer Checklist as a starting point.
Most states and provinces have laws in place that provide for a 30-day trial period. However, laws vary, some have a longer period, some none at all, and some providers will offer more time. Ask your provider to give a written statement regarding the trial period, with the start and end dates noted, as well as whether the trial period will be stopped if you have to return the hearing aid for repairs during the trial. Find a hearing professional you are comfortable with and who will work with you until you get the optimum results for your hearing loss. Ask about various options available in the hearing aid, such as a telecoil that is convenient to use with telephones and hearing assistive technology.
What else should I know about hearing aids?
Hearing aids will not correct hearing like glasses correct vision. Don’t expect 20/20 hearing but they will help you hear in many situations. Your new hearing aids may require follow-up visits for technical tweaks by your provider. Adjusting to hearing aids takes time and perseverance, but it is worth it. You may have a love/hate relationship with your hearing aid at first, as no one is enthusiastic about getting a hearing aid. But after a while, you will not want to be without it.
A hearing aid coupled with your willingness to tell others how to communicate with you and your practicing good speechreading and communication strategies is a winning combination and will get you back into your social and family life as you once knew it.
What is an audiologist?
An audiologist is a healthcare professional qualified to do a thorough evaluation of your hearing. The audiologist can determine your type and degree of hearing loss and whether or not you can be helped by hearing aids and, if so, the best type of hearing aid for you. The audiologist will recommend a treatment program to assist you with your communication needs and, if indicated, may recommend a medical evaluation.
What is a hearing instrument specialist?
A hearing instrument specialist is a professional certified by the National Board for Certification in Hearing Instrument Sciences (BC-HIS) and licensed or registered in all states. This specialist does an assessment, fits and dispenses hearing aids, and provides instruction in the use and care of hearing aids and related devices.
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