Hearing care professional (HCP) is an all-inclusive term for three professions, some of which some overlap. These are:
- Otolaryngologists — also known as ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctors
- Audiologists — also known as doctors of audiology (AuD)
- Hearing instrument specialists — professionals licensed to sell hearing aids (HIS)
Fundamentally, any one of them can test your hearing, identify the specifics of your loss, and guide you through the next steps to treat it. For more specifics on each profession, read below.
Otolaryngologists/ENTs are physicians who have specialized residency and training in medical conditions of the ear. While most do not fit hearing aids personally, many have an audiologist or HIS available as a member of their practice to test hearing and dispense hearing aids.
If you’re experiencing ear problems alone or in addition to fading hearing, such as sudden hearing loss, ear pain (with or without drainage and odor), dizziness, and similar concerns, then you should contact an otolaryngologist.
Audiologists are trained professionals with more than 1,000 hours of clinical training. Audiologists hold a doctorate or master’s degree and are certified by national and (depending on location) state board examinations. Audiologists may have private practices, work at a clinic or hospital, or work for a business that sells hearing aids. Audiologists can also identify problems related to hearing loss, such as issues with vertigo or balance, and recommend treatments in addition to hearing aids. Based on the hearing tests they administer they will recommend a treatment program or further medical evaluation. If your hearing loss doesn’t involve any further complications, an audiologist can likely satisfy all your needs for assessment, treatment that may include being fitted for hearing aids, and follow-up.
Hearing instrument specialists
Hearing instrument specialists select, fit, and adjust hearing aids, hearing aid accessories, and related devices used to improve upon or compensate for hearing loss. The nationally accepted credential for hearing aid specialists is certification by the National Board for Certification in Hearing Instrument Sciences. Like audiologists, hearing aid specialists may have private practices, work at a clinic or hospital, or work for a business that sells hearing aids. They administer hearing tests only for the purpose of selecting and fitting a hearing aid. If you already know you have hearing loss without other concerns and simply intend to get hearing aids, a hearing instrument specialist can provide sufficient assistance.
Both AuDs and HIS can help with aural rehabilitation. This involves extensive training and coaching that helps you learn to use your hearing aids quickly and correctly. As part of a rehabilitation program, they also assist in developing strategies for hearing and communicating well in different environments and listening situations (e.g., which hearing program will help you hear best in a crowded, noisy location or how to use a hearing aid’s telecoil to listen to a speaker in a “looped” auditorium).
Keep in mind when choosing any hearing care professional
No matter who you ultimately work with, keep these three things in mind:
- A HCP should focus on your hearing health rather than just try to sell you products
- If you do wind up getting hearing aids, you should receive oral and written instructions on how to insert, adjust, and care for them
- You should feel comfortable with the HCP. Finding a solution to hearing loss can be a complicated process, and you may be working together for some time until everything is right
We provide an easy-to-use hearing care professional locator on our website. By simply entering your zip code, it will help you find a qualified professional nearby. We encourage you to choose someone as close as possible to your address, as that will make it easy to visit them whenever you require assistance or for standard follow-up visits.