If you suspect you’re suffering from hearing loss, start off by visiting your primary care doctor for a basic screening. This will show if you need further diagnostic evaluation.
Next, you may need to visit a specialist for a hearing test. The Federal Trade Commission advises looking for a hearing health professional who offers products from several manufacturers.
• Audiologist. A hearing health professional who identifies and measures hearing loss and can fit hearing aids. An audiologist has at least a master’s degree specializing in hearing loss, and many have an Au.D. (doctorate) degree, too. Some have a Ph.D.
“Audiologists are the most qualified to treat disorders of hearing and balance,” says Stephanie Sjoblad, Au.D., professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. “They provide diagnostic hearing and balance testing as well as amplification options, hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other hearing devices.”
Audiologists are licensed by each state and may hold certification by the American Board of Audiology or hold a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology (CCC-A) awarded by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
• Hearing instrument specialist. A licensed technician who performs a basic hearing test for the purpose of fitting hearing aids. Before being fitted you should inquire about the specialist’s level of training, as requirements vary by state. Hearing aid centers like Costco may use hearing instrument specialists for fittings, Sjoblad says.
• Otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor). A physician who manages the medical aspects of hearing loss, such as a hole in the eardrum, deeply impacted earwax, or a growth in the ear canal. Otolaryngologists can perform surgery, including insertion of cochlear implants.
Read more about how to shop for a hearing aid and if an over-the-counter sound amplifier may be an option for you instead.
Erica Manfred is a Florida-based freelance journalist. Her articles and essays have appeared in Atlantic.com, Salon.com, Seniorplanet.org, Healthline.com, The New York Times Magazine, Village Voice, Woman’s Day, SELF, Cosmopolitan, and Ladies Home Journal, among others. She is also the author of several books, including “He’s History, You’re Not: Surviving Divorce After 40.”