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Let's talk about hearing: Who can perform hearing tests?

Posted by Christina Jedra  March 5, 2013 10:00 AM

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The following was submitted by Lolly Wigall, President of Atlantic Audiology: 

Every week there are advertisements offering free hearing tests.  Who is doing these free hearing tests?  Are they valid?  Or, should I see an Ear, Nose and Throat physician to have my hearing checked?  Or, should I see an audiologist?  Should I get a referral from my primary care physician?  How do I go about having a hearing test?

There are two professionals who are licensed to perform hearing tests.  One is audiologists and the other are hearing instrument specialists.  Audiologists have earned a doctorate degree in Audiology.  They have a Bachelor’s degree and then have another four years of graduate school to learn the field of audiology.  

Audiology encompasses not only hearing testing, but hearing aids sales and service,vertigo (dizziness), balance, aural rehabilitation, pediatric testing, tinnitus, industrial audiology, newborn hearing screening, cochlear implants, school FM systems, and counseling about hearing loss. Audiologists do a complete diagnostic evaluation that should be put in your medical record.  Audiologists are professionals who work in standalone clinics, hospitals, Ear, Nose, Throat physician offices, industrial testing, and school systems.  Insurances will pay for a diagnostic evaluation completed by a licensed, certified audiologist. If your insurance requires a referral, ask your primary care physician for one. 

Hearing Instrument Specialists are trained to perform basic audiograms and fit hearing aids.  Each state has their requirements for licensure. If hearing instrument specialists sees any medical issue, they are to refer to the primary care physician or to an Ear, Nose and Throat Physician.  Since the test performed is not a diagnostic test, no insurance billing is done, and the test can be advertised as free. Primarily they are selling and fitting and servicing hearing aids.  
So, where should you go to have your hearing tested?  It depends on your needs.  If you need a test for the Department of Transportation, you should see an audiologist.  If you are having tinnitus or noises in your head, you should see an audiologist in conjunction with a medical evaluation.  If you are 50 years old or older, you should have a complete hearing evaluation with an audiologist for your medical record.  It is wise to have a baseline hearing test in your medical record.  




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