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  • Writer's pictureDavid Engelman

How to Choose a Hearing Aid Audiologist

Updated: Feb 5


Older man with woman explaining things, like a hearing aid consultation

When considering hearing aids, many people spend lots of time researching the seemingly endless different options that are out there. There’s so much to consider—the model, the technology level, the manufacturer—just to name a few. Well, I would argue that perhaps the most important factor to consider is the audiologist that you see to fit your hearing aids. A good audiologist will not only help guide you in the above decision-making process but is critical for your success with hearing aids once you’ve been fitted.


It is first important to understand that hearing aids are prescribed specifically for your degree of your hearing loss. One hearing aid can often be prescribed and programmed to fit a wide range of different degrees of hearing loss. Someone with a more severe hearing loss will obviously require a different level of amplification than someone with a mild hearing loss. The prescription will also vary based on the frequencies of sound that are affected by the hearing loss, along with which parts of the ear have been damaged. The audiologist is necessary to ensure that the hearing aids have therefore been prescribed and programmed properly, taking all these things into account, along with your own unique circumstances, lifestyle, and preferences. And in most instances, once you’ve been fitted with hearing aids, you’ll still be seeing your audiologist on a somewhat regular basis for reassessments and follow-ups, so you do want to be sure that the audiologist is someone you feel comfortable with and can work with you to help you do your best with your hearing aids.


So, what should you consider when looking for an audiologist? There are the obvious considerations, that, while worth a mention, probably aren’t what you need an article telling you to think about. These would be things such as the audiologist’s fees, aftercare, qualifications, and patient reviews. However, I think there are few other things to keep in mind, that I’d like to discuss in this article.



Best Practices


Person taking down notes on using best practices in audiology


The term “best practices” refers to using methods that are generally deemed to yield the best results. In a clinical field such as audiology, this will usually involve what we call “evidence-based practice”. This means using scientific evidence to determine the best techniques to produce the best outcomes for a patient. In audiology, this will typically involve ensuring your hearing aids have been properly prescribed by running various tests such as a real ear measurement. This verifies, from an objective point of view, that the hearing aid is performing appropriately. Then, we would also want to ensure, from a subjective point of view, that the hearing aids are providing you with the degree of benefit and satisfaction that you have been expecting. And likewise, a good audiologist will use best practices to help set those expectations with you, allowing you to understand what realistically hearing aids can and cannot do.


Transparency


Transparent eyeglasses, symbolic of transparency in audiology


It is important that there be transparency between you and your audiologist. This can manifest in different ways. For example, suppose you call a potential audiology practice and ask if they can provide you with at least a rough idea of their hearing aid prices. The swift reply may be that pricing is only discussed as part of an appointment. I’m personally wary of businesses that shy away from providing any pricing information at all until they already have you in their “clutches”. I think many other people are too, and usually for good reason, as there can be a sense that is a possible red flag for pressure selling. Now in all fairness, it is indeed difficult to provide a completely accurate estimate of how much hearing aids may cost you, before even meeting you. This is because the most appropriate hearing aids for you will vary based on your hearing loss and specific communication needs and goals. This can only be determined via a complete consultation and hearing assessment. But a transparent audiology practice should be able to at least provide a price range of their hearing aids, so that you can have a general sense of what you may be paying. I would also note that most audiology practices (my own practice, Finchley Hearing, included) will bundle a certain level of aftercare and service with the hearing aid fee, so you are usually not paying exclusively for a pair of hearing aids—but also professional support of the hearing aids, which is necessary to optimise your success with them.


Transparency manifests in other ways beyond pricing. Another great example is the audiologist’s willingness to discuss potential limitations of hearing aids. Hearing aids are not perfect and will by no means allow you to hear and communicate with complete ease and effectiveness in all situations. And it is important that your audiologist takes the time to explain this to you and set some expectations about hearing aid use before you make a purchase decision. These expectations will differ between individuals and will be based on several factors, and a good audiologist will be able to determine these and review them with you.


Pressure Selling


Two people shaking hands, such as when agreeing to purchase hearing aids


I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who enjoys being the recipient of a high-pressure sales pitch. More so, I don’t think this tactic is ever appropriate to use in a healthcare setting, where a patient’s best interests should be the priority, rather than a sale. Unfortunately, some audiologists do resort to these tactics. You should never have to feel this way in an audiology consultation, and you should never feel pressured to make an immediate decision to purchase hearing aids. A good audiologist will recognise that ultimately you, as the patient, are in control of your own healthcare, and you are the one who should be guiding the decision-making process for hearing aids, rather than the audiologist doing it for you. A high degree of motivation to use and wear hearing aids is necessary to truly be successful with them. If you only bought hearing aids because you felt pressured to, you probably won’t wear them much, and may not perceive much benefit from them when you do wear your hearing aids. Hearing aids are also available in a range of different technology levels available at different price points, and an audiologist shouldn’t just be pushing the most expensive option onto you, if that’s not necessarily what is most appropriate for you.


If you end the consultation with saying that you’d like to take a bit of time to “think about it”, and the audiologist questions this need, I would probably use this as a good indicator of which audiologist you do not want to be seeing to provide you with hearing aids. Also, keep in mind, that if you felt the appointment was a high-pressure sales pitch to purchase hearing aids in the first place, this pressure selling will not end just there. There will likely then be pressure to purchase additional accessories and services for your hearing aids, and before you know it, there will be pressure to purchase new hearing aids. I would add though, that sometimes the pressure to sell isn’t necessarily coming directly from the individual audiologist. Often the audiologist will feel tremendous pressure themselves from their employer, to sell hearing aids to their patients. This will often be their motivation for using high pressure sales tactics on you, rather than being motivated strictly by their own financial gain.


Independent Practice vs High-Street Chain


London high street, where you might find an audiology practice


This article was written primarily with the assumption that you are seeking out an independent audiology practice, but it would be helpful to understand the choice between using an independent audiologist versus a high-street based chain in the first instance. An independent audiology practice is one that is not part of a corporate chain of practices. Larger independent practices may have multiple locations and sites, but they are still operating as an independent entity and usually just serve one geographic area. The high-street based chains, on the other hand, are quite ubiquitous and are often instantly recognisable brand names. Many of them offer other healthcare services, such as an optician or pharmacy. The biggest practical difference between the two options, are that the high-street chains almost always have formed some kind of contract with one of the major hearing aid manufacturers to primarily sell and dispense hearing aids from that specific brand. Therefore, audiologists working for these chains will be limited in their choice of hearing aid that they can offer you. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I do believe that most patients can do well with most hearing aid brands, but it is a consideration, nonetheless. Consequently, because of the high volume of hearing aid sales, and loyalty to one brand, the prices offered at high-street chains are often more competitive than what you may find at an independent practice. However, many people prefer an independent practice as they often find that the service and care can be more personalised and consistent than what can be offered at a high-street chain, which will essentially always be answering to external corporate policies and pressures.


Personality


Older man happy with the professional relationship he has with his audiologist


It may be obvious to some, but the audiologist’s personality is indeed an important consideration. You don’t need to be best friends with your audiologist, but it is helpful if you feel you “gel” with them to a degree. Audiologists do form a professional relationship with their patients, as you will be seeing them on a somewhat regular basis for reassessment of your hearing, and for follow-ups and maintenance of your hearing aids. Therefore, you want to ensure that you feel comfortable with your audiologist, and that they are supportive and caring. You should feel that the audiologist took time to understand who you are, and what your unique needs are. You should feel that they communicate honestly with you, and that your hearing healthcare is their priority.


Some Final Thoughts


You may have noticed that some of the above-described considerations may not be apparent until after your initial consultation with the audiologist. Some of these things may be hard to determine just from the audiologist’s website alone. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with going for a second opinion before deciding to purchase hearing aids. You should be able to take a copy of your hearing test results home with you and take your time with your decision. If you keep the above factors in mind, coupled with your own intuition, I’m confident that you will find the right audiologist for you or a loved one.


If you'd like to learn more about the kind of hearing care we provide for our patients at Finchley Hearing, please explore our website and feel free to get in touch with any questions.


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