Seeing an audiologist for a diagnostic hearing test is the first step. A diagnostic test is not just a screening to determine if you need hearing aids. It helps uncover any underlying physical issues of the ear anatomy, wax buildup, infection, or reasons behind sudden hearing loss that need to be addressed. A referral to an Ear, Nose, and Throat physician may be needed.
If hearing loss is found, an individualized treatment plan will be developed to treat the hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing/buzzing in the ears), if present.
Many people incorrectly assume the test that they give themselves on an app or a screening done at a local store is enough. However, those are simply screenings, which indicate the need for a diagnostic evaluation performed by an Audiologist.
An Audiologist has either a Master’s degree or a Doctorate degree in Audiology.
Their training, licensure, and scope of practice encompasses all aspects of hearing healthcare including: comprehensive audiological evaluations, assessments for dizziness and balance disorders, and treatment plans for hearing loss and tinnitus management.
This includes the design, selection, fitting and verification of hearing aids and assistive devices.
Hearing aids are not just amplifiers or a pair of headphones that make everything louder. They are medical devices that are prescribed specifically to treat your individual hearing loss.
Hearing aids are essentially mini-computers that perform tasks your ears no longer can. The major hearing aid manufacturers spend millions of dollars on research and development annually to ensure that their devices produce excellent sound quality, automatically adjust for different environments, and connect seamlessly to smartphones and tablets.
At your consultation, we will discuss which level of technology is right for you based on your lifestyle and budget.
Hearing aids are available online, but few are actually approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for online sales and the hearing aid manufacturers themselves.
Rules have become stricter in recent years to ensure the authenticity of the hearing aids. Manufacturers often won’t honor warranties of online sales unless they are from approved sites. This ensures they are authentic hearing aids; not stolen, mislabeled or used.
Further, one should never purchase a hearing aid online without a direct referral to an Audiologist for a fitting. A hearing aid straight out of the box, is simply an amplifier. It needs to be programmed and fit to the specific individual wearing it to provide the most benefit.
Should you buy your hearing device on EBAY?
The short answer is no!
The FDA recently approved the sales of OTC (over the counter hearing amplifiers). It is important to note the difference a true hearing device fit and an OTC amplifier.
OTC amplifiers are targeted towards people with mild hearing loss and have a flat amplified response. They are not fit to the individual’s hearing loss and are not meant for people with moderate to profound hearing loss.
A hearing aid is fit by a professional and is individually tailored to the patient according to their hearing loss and ears.
A hearing aid should only be purchased online if you are directly referred to a professional for the fitting. Speech mapping, or real ear measurement, is a fitting and verification method that should be used to ensure your hearing aids are programmed to provide optimal audibility of speech.
Proper fit and insertion of the hearing aid, teaching of routine maintenance, and scheduling follow up appointments are all critical aspects of what makes a fitting successful. These are all the things you are paying an Audiologist to do!
The same can be said for hearing aids purchased at a local pharmacy or store. These are fine for a person with minimal hearing loss, but anyone with moderate to profound hearing loss needs to have a prescribed hearing device fit by a professional with a specific treatment plan to follow.
Hearing is very much use it or lose it! Hearing loss affects your hearing nerve function and ultimately what your brain processes. Not treating hearing loss can affect long term speech understanding capabilities.
Additionally, hearing loss was recently linked to being a factor in declining brain function, dementia and depression. If you suspect hearing loss or tinnitus, please contact an Audiologist to set up a diagnostic evaluation.
Unfortunately, the answer is no. Hearing aids are not considered "necessary or reasonable" according to Medicare guidelines and are generally an out-of-pocket expense.
Several Medicare advantage plans may offer discounts on hearing devices through 3rd party insurance programs. Be careful on fully understanding what the insurance program, actually covers, as far as visits and the in the programming/fitting fee.
Some insurance programs dictate the type and style of hearing device, severely limiting the patient’s options. The made for insurance hearing aid may not actually be in the best interest of the patient’s needs.
Typically, standard health insurance does not cover hearing aids.
However, there are infrequent occasions when special hearing aid benefits are included in health care coverage.
Check with your insurance agent or human resources department to learn if your insurance includes hearing aid benefits. Our office chooses to be out of network with major insurance (with the exception of Medicare) so that the insurance cannot dictate the style, level of technology or brand.
Our office will provide a detailed receipt with appropriate insurance coding so the patient can submit directly to their insurance for reimbursement.