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Connect Hearing has compiled some of the most common questions our patients ask about hearing care solutions, hearing tests, and audiology—we hope it helps.

Visiting a Hearing Care Professional

What is a hearing care professional?
A hearing care professional helps people with hearing loss and hearing impairment.  It's a broad term used to refer to several different medical specializations, all with different levels of training and areas of expertise. Hearing care professionals are qualified to test for hearing loss, recommend hearing solutions, and fit/service hearing aids. 

They are not typically qualified to prescribe medication or perform surgical procedures—this usually requires a referral to an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist. 
What does it take to be a hearing care professional?
Becoming a hearing care professional demands a high level of knowledge, expertise, and professionalism, though the specific requirements vary by state. Generally, however, it requires several years of college, a licensing exam, and practical training.  During this training, aspiring professionals learn how to advise clients, select an appropriate hearing aid, and adjust and maintain hearing assistance devices. 

If you are interested in a career as a hearing care professional, we encourage you to start by looking at the requirements in your area. You may also be interested in working as a Patient Care Coordinator in one of our centers. Please visit our career page if you're interested in learning more. 
What are the characteristics of a good hearing care professional?
Hearing care professionals are typically held to a very high standard of behavior and professionalism. For that reason, a good hearing care professional has many qualities in common with any successful physician. These include: 
  • Patience
  • Knowledge and expertise
  • Communication skills
  • Accountability
  • Compassion
  • Diligence
  • Attention to detail
  • Discipline
What are the different types of hearing care professionals?
In the United States, there are three primary types of hearing care practitioners: 
  • Hearing Instrument Specialist/Hearing Aid Specialist.  Experts in testing for hearing loss and prescribing hearing assistance devices, these specialists must complete a vocational training program and then log a set number of practical training hours before being licensed by their state. They must also complete a set number of continuing education units throughout the year. 
  • Board-Certified Hearing Instrument Specialist. After a licensed HIS/HAS has worked in their field for at least two years, they may choose to complete a certification exam offered by the National Board for Certification in Hearing Instrument Sciences. According to NBC-HIS, the National Competency Exam tests competency across three critical areas of hearing instrument sciences. They must regularly retake this certification exam to keep their credentials up to date. 
  • Audiologist. An audiologist has either a Master's Degree or a Doctorate in audiology. They study a broad range of knowledge sets and disciplines, including hearing loss, balance disorders, anatomy, physiology, and genetics. An audiologist can test for and diagnose an incredibly broad range of hearing and balance disorders.
What should I expect when visiting a hearing care professional?
Generally, a visit to an audiology practice or clinic starts with a lifestyle assessment and hearing test followed by one-on-one consultation with a hearing care professional (HCP). 

The lifestyle assessment gives the HCP a better understanding of your unique circumstances. Their questions will typically focus on your daily needs and leisure activities. The better they get to know you, the more accurate their diagnosis will be. 

The hearing test is a direct assessment of your hearing to establish your baseline level of hearing impairment. Typically, this involves sitting in a specially-equipped room and listening to a series of tones through a headset. You may also be asked to repeat words back to the audiologist. 

Once the test is complete, the audiologist will create an [audiogram] from the collected data—a visual representation of your hearing health. 

Based on the results of both tests, the HCP will sit you down for a consultation where they'll recommend which solutions are optimal for you. You'll typically be offered several hearing aid choices, each with its own functions and features, and the practitioner will help you determine which is the best option for your needs. 
How do I find the right hearing care professional?
You'll want to start by ensuring that whatever practitioner you visit has all of the following baseline characteristics: 
  • Licensed and certified with up-to-date credentials.
  • Holds either a Master's or Doctoral degree in audiology.
  • Willing to confer/collaborate with your primary care practitioner.
  • Accepts insurance. 
  • Provides several different choices of hearing aid manufacturers.
  • A high standard of care. 
Pay close attention to reviews as you search for your hearing care professional, and you should eventually find one that fits your needs. 

Getting Your Hearing Tested

Should I get a hearing test?
If you or a loved one suspects you may be suffering from hearing loss, it's typically best to go sooner rather than later. 

Hearing loss is typically gradual and often apparent to close friends and loved ones long before it's obvious to the individual. The sooner you identify and treat hearing loss, the better. Leaving it untreated may have serious long-term consequences including depression and dementia. 
How often should I get my hearing tested?
Because the first signs of hearing loss usually manifest after age 50, anyone younger than that can likely get away without requiring an appointment unless they're outwardly showing symptoms of hearing impairment. After age 50, we typically recommend getting a hearing test at least once a year.  To save time, you may incorporate this into your annual checkup. 
What happens during a hearing test?
In the most common type of hearing test, a pure-tone audiometry exam, you'll be seated in a soundproof room or cubicle. Occasionally, you'll also be given a pair of noise-canceling headphones. Your audiologist will then play a series of sounds with frequencies ranging from 125-8000 Hertz, each at a gradually increasing volume. You'll be instructed to indicate the point at which you're first able to hear each tone. 

This typically takes only fifteen minutes. 

An additional test may be performed using vibrations or electrodes against the skull to determine if there's any damage to the middle ear. Once the test is completed, the audiologist uses an audiogram to determine your hearing threshold.  
Where should I go for a hearing test?
You can get your hearing tested at an ENT specialist clinic or with a Connect Hearing audiologist near you.
How much does a hearing test cost?
Hearing tests are offered free of charge.


What is an audiogram?
An audiogram is a chart that illustrates your hearing threshold at various levels and frequencies, used by audiologists to determine the nature and extent of hearing loss. 
How are audiograms created?
Audiologists create audiograms as they measure your hearing threshold for each frequency.  This may happen automatically or through a specialized tool known as an audiometer. The quietest sound you can hear at each frequency is recorded on a chart as your hearing threshold. 

Most audiometry exams also feature a discomfort threshold, the loudest a sound can be played before it becomes uncomfortable for you. A pure-tone audiometry exam may also be followed by a speech intelligibility test to determine the extent to which hearing loss impedes your understanding of speech.

Measurements are taken separately for each ear. 
How do I read an audiogram?
The lines on an audiogram show the point at which you're able to perceive sound along two axes. 

Loudness and intensity are represented on the y-axis (vertically) and measured in decibels (dB). The lower you are on the axis, the louder the sound.  The vertical axis counts down as you move up the axis, with 0 dB typically positioned at its highest point. 

Tone frequency is represented on the x-axis (horizontally), measured in Hertz (Hz).  The lowest frequency is directly at the intersection of the x and y axis, increasing in pitch as one moves further right.  Audiograms rarely go past 20,000 Hz, as this is the highest audible frequency for human beings. 

The red line on an audiogram represents the right ear, and the blue line represents the left ear.  If the two lines are nearly identical to one another,  this indicates your hearing ability is the same in both ears. You may either have normal hearing or symmetrical hearing loss. 

You may also notice that there's a third line or a shaded blue area at the top of the graph. This represents normal hearing ability. The more your hearing deviates from this threshold, the more severe your hearing impairment. 
What are decibels?
Decibels (dB) represent a sound's loudness, measured on a logarithmic scale.  On this scale, if a sound increases in volume by six dB, it's roughly twice as loud as it was prior to the increase. It's also important to understand that dB value depends on a sound's respective context. 

Here are some examples of different sounds and where they fall on the dB scale:
  • 180 dB: a rocket launch
  • 140 dB: a jet plane
  • 120 dB: a rock band
  • 110 dB: loud thunder
  • 90 dB: city traffic
  • 80 dB: a loud radio
  • 60 dB: a conversation at normal volume
  • 30 dB: whispering
  • 0 dB: the quietest sound that can be heard by the human ear
What is amplitude?
Amplitude refers to the height of a soundwave. The higher the wave, the louder the sound. 
What are frequencies?
Frequency is a measure of how many oscillations or vibrations are present in a soundwave over a particular time frame, measured in Hertz (Hz).  Higher numbers mean more vibrations, which in turn, increases the tone of the sound. A beeping alarm clock will typically be high-frequency, while a lawnmower or air conditioner's sound is low-frequency.