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Hearing Loss Professionals

Finding the right hearing health professional depends on the needs and goals of the patient. The path to hearing health usually begins with a visit to a general doctor or child's pediatrician who may be able to diagnose the hearing loss and treat it with medications or procedures right in the office. However, if the hearing condition is beyond the scope of the doctor's expertise, a visit to one of the three more common hearing health professionals may be necessary.

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Audiologist

An audiologist is trained in the diagnosis and management of hearing loss based on specific and detailed hearing tests to determine hearing health. Education required includes a graduate education supplemented with a professional certification and license. An audiologist identifies whether hearing loss exists and measures the severity of the hearing loss. An audiologist can help a patient decide on the best solution for his or her hearing health and help fit, program, and adjust a hearing aid to meet the patient's needs. The audiologist may also check back with a patient's doctor or refer the patient to an otolaryngologist or ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor) based on the responses and the nature of the hearing loss. Audiologist was also named the least stressful job of 2014.

Licensed Hearing Instrument Specialist

The licensed hearing specialist is a hearing care professional who identifies hearing loss and dispenses hearing aids. The specialist has expertise with the features and fit for many kinds of hearing aids and will work with a patient to ensure the best devices for his or her hearing health. In order to provide these hearing care services, the specialist must meet certain requirements (requirements vary by state) and pass an exam. In some instances, he or she collaborates with other hearing professionals when patients require more specialized evaluations and treatment. For example, if a patient is a candidate for a cochlear implant, a doctor, audiologist, and ENT may all be involved in providing hearing health care.

Otolaryngologist (ENT)

On occasion, before a patient sees the audiologist, a doctor may refer a patient to an otolaryngologist, also known as an ENT. A referral may be necessary when there is a more specific issue with the ear that a highly specialized doctor, such as an ENT, can address. An ENT is trained in medicine and surgery, completing four years of medical school and five years of residency. Because of this experience, he or she can operate or perform specialized procedures for patients with ear conditions. This includes operations for cancers and other serious conditions not just involving the ear but also with the nose and throat. ENTs can also specialize based on age, such as pediatric otolaryngologists who work with children.

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