If you are needing a hearing test, or think you might have a hearing problem, it can be difficult to know who to go and see. With so many people advertising hearing tests and hearing aids, how do you choose? Are there certain signs you can look out for? Here are 5 tips and tricks when choosing an audiologist.
- Are they an Audiologist? In South Africa, there are a few professions that can perform hearing screenings, hearing tests, and even fit hearing aids. Not all of them are audiologists. An audiologist is a healthcare professional registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa who has studied for a minimum of 4 years at a University. They are trained to perform full diagnostic hearing testing that has goals beyond just fitting hearing aids. Audiologists are trained to look for signs of hearing, ear, and other problems that might need other kinds of intervention. Audiologists are also the only professionals who can perform proper hearing testing on children. When looking at who you want to see, think about what you are looking for, and check that they are registered as an Audiologist if you suspect you may need more than a basic hearing test.
- Find out if they follow best practice. Best practice for audiology means full diagnostic hearing testing, as we have described in our article about what to expect at your first hearing test. A full diagnostic test should be more than a basic ‘respond to the beeps’ and should include an assessment of your ability to hear and understand speech, the performance of the cochlea in isolation, and other testing, especially if a hearing loss is identified. Best Practice also means offering Real Ear Measures to verify hearing aid fittings and help with fine-tuning. This is the gold standard for fitting hearing aids and is the only way to know for sure whether hearing aids are fitted appropriately. Ask which tests are offered and whether verification is done before you book an appointment. These things are essential to making sure you get the best possible hearing help.
- How easy is it for you to get to them? If you are thinking you might need hearing aids, make sure that the audiologist you choose is easily accessible to you. Some audiologists travel to different locations based on a schedule. Make sure that you can be seen relatively quickly should you need hearing/hearing aid help unexpectedly. Are their other branches close to you? Do they have support in the area even when they are not there? Can they offer you remote assistance if it is needed? Ask these questions before booking so you do not have problems later. Remember that hearing aid fitting is a process, and sometimes requires several consultations to fine-tune the aids correctly- this is important to remember when choosing an audiologist.
- Look for choice. Some audiologists have relationships or contracts with specific hearing aid brands that means they only work with that brand. Remember that everyone’s hearing is unique, and it might be better to find an audiologist that works with a variety of brands to ensure that they can find an option that will work well for you. Furthermore, make sure that the brand that you choose is serviceable by other audiologists in your area. Limiting yourself to one audiologist due to the brand you wear can be problematic over time should the audiologist move, no longer practice, or should you wish to seek services elsewhere.
- Personalities matter. If you have hearing loss, your audiologist may end up being someone that you have a relationship with for the rest of your life! You want it to be someone that you can trust, and that you feel comfortable sharing your experiences with. The better you and your audiologist communicate, the better they will be able to help you with your hearing. If you go for a hearing test but don’t feel like the audiologist took enough time, or if you felt like your personalities didn’t gel together, it’s ok to find someone else that you can build a relationship with.
Choosing an audiologist is not always easy, but if you follow these tips and tricks you should be able to find the right professional for you. And remember, it can be helpful to share your experiences with others. If you have found an audiologist in your area that meets the criteria above, tell people about her! It might help more people to get the hearing care they need.
If you have any questions or comments about this article, or if you would like to book an appointment to see one of our audiologists, comment below, or click here to contact us.