Hearing Instrument Specialist vs. Dispenser
What is the difference between a hearing instrument specialist, a hearing aid dispenser and an audiologist? The terms used for hearing professionals can be difficult to understand, and many people might not even know the role of their hearing health professional. However, there are differences between the types of professional, and it's important to know what they are. They have different levels of education and can provide different services, so choosing the right one is essential.
What they do
Understanding the main roles of both hearing instrument specialists and hearing aid dispensers will help you to decide what type of hearing professional you should be seeing. The main difference is that an audiologist is a medical doctor, who can offer a wider range of services. Audiologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing health and balance disorders, including things like earwax impaction, hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo. They can carry out a range of tests, diagnose hearing loss and conditions affecting the hearing and balance, and develop treatment plans too. An audiologist has a broader knowledge base when it comes to your auditory system, making them the ideal professional for individuals needing complete care. They are also well versed in providing compatible hearing aids for your specific lifestyle, hearing loss and budget needs.
A hearing aid dispenser has a more limited scope. Their qualifications and licensing allow them to carry out hearing tests for the purpose of dispensing hearing aids. This means that they can perform the essential tests needed to choose and program your hearing aids, but they don't have a wider medical knowledge of hearing, the ears, and the balance system of the body. Their skills center around dispensing hearing aids, and if you choose to use a hearing aid dispenser, you might need to use other hearing professionals to add to their services.
A hearing instrument specialist is an expert in hearing technology and assistive devices. They typically work with adults that have age-related hearing loss and can fit them with hearing aids to address this common issue. However, they lack the anatomical knowledge that an audiologist has, so they are unable to handle more complex cases of hearing loss, such as noise induced.
Education and licensing
Hearing instrument specialists, hearing aid dispensers and audiologists have very different levels of education. An audiologist usually has at least eight years of post-secondary education, which includes four years of college and four of graduate school. They have an advanced degree in audiology, and are educated in the science of hearing. At graduate school, an audiologist learns about hearing loss, hearing aids and the vestibular system. An audiologist also needs to pass an exam to gain their license. This exam is standardized across the country, so every audiologist has the same minimum standard of education.
Hearing aid dispensers and hearing instrument specialists do not need to have the same educational background as an audiologist. The requirements differ depending on the state, but some hearing aid dispensers might only have a high school diploma, in addition to completing a certification course. Some hearing aid dispensers also take an apprenticeship with a trained hearing aid dispenser.
Services offered and how they can help
Audiologists offer a broad range of services. These include diagnosis of hearing and balance problems and the development of treatment plans. Audiologists can test your hearing, find out the causes of hearing loss, help with hearing aids and other assistive hearing devices, and help with other treatments for hearing loss, such as tinnitus therapy. A hearing aid dispenser and hearing instrument specialist offer a more limited range of services. They can test your hearing so that they have the correct prescription for your hearing aids. They can also recommend hearing aids, program them and fit them to ensure that your hearing aids are comfortable and are right for you.
Why choose an audiologist?
An audiologist has a higher level of education and has met standardized requirements for licensing. They can offer a larger range of services and help with all aspects of hearing health and the balance system. Audiologists are experts with advanced degrees, offering you the highest standards available. While hearing aid dispensers can help you if you need hearing aids, they can't provide the same background knowledge of your auditory system and potential ear-health issues.
Make an appointment with an audiologist when you get in touch with Peninsula Hearing. Call our Poulsbo office (360-697-3061) or our Port Townsend (360-379-5458) office to find out more.