If you suspect you may have hearing loss, there is a wide range of support you can access, from trained medical experts to licensed professionals who can help you navigate diagnosis, mitigation and / or treatment options. Each professional has received a different type of training and expertise, and brings important knowledge and skills to your hearing health plan.
An ear, nose and throat specialist can help diagnose the cause of hearing loss.
Your primary care provider may be a medical doctor (MD), nurse practitioner (NP), or physician's assistant and can give you a medical exam to look for anything obvious that could be physically out of balance in your ear. They can also administer a basic hearing test. If there isn't an easy explanation such as an ear infection or wax build up, they may refer you to an otolaryngologist.
An otolaryngologist (often referred to as a ENT) is a physician who has trained and specialized in conditions of the ears, nose and throat. They can provide medical diagnoses, medical care, surgical options and other treatments. Your otolaryngologist can work with you to find out what could be causing hearing loss, and help by offering specific treatment options. If they cannot provide a suitable solution, they may also refer you to another hearing professional, such as an audiologist or hearing specialist.
An audiologist has specialized training to extensively test your hearing and identify both the type and the degree of your hearing loss. Audiologists are not physicians with a medical degree; instead, they have a doctor of audiology graduate degree (Au.D.). This is a four-year degree that follows a bachelor's degree, exam and clinical fellowship, and provides them with specialized knowledge of the ear and how it works. An audiologist can also obtain a license to fit and dispense hearing aids, but their primary role is to help you deal with the side effects of hearing loss and help you create a plan to mitigate its effects on your day to day life.
A hearing specialist, also known as a hearing aid specialist or a hearing instrument specialist, holds a state issued license that typically requires a two-year apprenticeship. They are licensed to conduct basic hearing tests, fit and dispense hearing aids and educate you about hearing loss.
In many cases, hearing aids can be fitted and life can return to normal without extensive intervention, but it is always best to know all of your options and have access to comprehensive care to help prevent further hearing loss.
If you suspect you may have hearing loss, there is a wide range of support you can access, from trained medical experts to licensed professionals who can help you navigate diagnosis, mitigation and / or treatment options.