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The Consumer Handbook on Tinnitus

How to Obtain Professional Help
Robert E. Sandlin, Ph.D.

     There are things you may want to consider in your search for professional guidance. This is especially true, in view of the improvements in hearing aid design and function. What I mean is that advances in hearing aid technology may be very helpful to those with hearing loss.

     Why is this so important to you? Hearing aids with computer capability are now available that permit the hearing professional to help you in ways that were impossible before. The fancy name for this advanced hearing aid is Digital Signal Processing.

     The task of finding the most qualified individual to manage whatever hearing problems you have is not as difficult as it might first seem. Your biggest challenge will be narrowing your search down from a lot of choices to a few options. In doing so, you’ll reduce your frustrations and sharpen your focus on what’s required. There is always a certain amount of frustration in seeking help for some human ailment. Questions may arise for which there are no immediate answers. For example, have you ever asked yourself any of the following questions?

  • Do I need a hearing aid at all?
  • Do I need two?
  • How do I know if the recommended hearing aids are the best for me?
  • How do I know whether the person I’m going to see is competent?
  • How do I determine if the person I’m seeing really cares about me or is merely profit-motivated?
  • What if I don’t like the hearing aids, what action can I take?
  • How can I determine whether medicine or surgery can improve my hearing?
  • Do I have to wear them all of my waking hours?

     These questions are not uncommon. The important thing is that all of them can be answered in an intelligent and understanding manner. A lot depends on whom you select to be your personal hearing healthcare manager. Your physician can tell if medicine or surgery would help. The audiologist can verify the presence or absence of a significant hearing loss and select and dispense the appropriate hearing aid. Also, the audiologist may provide to your doctor hearing test results suggesting a possible need for medical attention. The hearing instrument specialist is also qualified to select, fit and dispense hearing aids but cannot conduct a diagnostic, audiological evaluation.

     Be optimistic about your potential success with hearing aids. Think of all the benefits you could experience. Look at it this way. You’ve already won more than half the battle just by making a positive decision to do something.

     The purpose of this chapter is to suggest ways in which you can connect to the proper hearing care professionals, and understand what they can offer. This will require positive action on your part, defined as taking a step(s) to successfully eliminate or reduce your hearing problem. As usual, the first step is the most difficult.

     This chapter will provide guidance to you and your family on several key issues. In the process, it should reduce your fears, apprehensions and frustrations sometimes associated with any search for better ways to manage a health problem. By the end of this chapter, you should be knowledgeable about how to move through the maze of hearing healthcare professionals. You should know who’s who in this profession. You should be able to establish who is the best person to meet your particular needs. You will know how to determine the qualifications of the provider who might best serve you.

     If you have doubts or problems regarding the hearing healthcare person you elected to see, get a second opinion. You know your hearing is extremely important to you. You have every right to find the best help possible. Not all hearing health professionals have the same amount of knowledge and experience. Let’s review some history underlying the emergence of hearing aid dispensing as an occupation in the United States.