Kentucky Academy of Audiology

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an audiologist?
Audiologists are the only professionals who are university trained and licensed to identify, evaluate, diagnose, and treat audiologic disorders of hearing. Audiologists may practice in Private Audiology Offices, Hospitals, Medical Practices, Universities, Public Schools, Private and Public Agencies.

All individuals with suspected hearing loss require audiological evaluation to determine the type, degree, and cause of the hearing impairment. Insurance companies and managed care organizations are realizing that efficient cost-effective hearing health care requires that primary care physicians refer patients directly to audiologists to determine whether rehabilitation or medical/surgical treatment is indicated. Insurance companies recognize that only 20% of all individuals with hearing loss require medical or surgical treatment for their hearing loss. Rehabilitation treatment consists primarily of design, selection and fitting of hearing aids and/or assistive listening devices. These services are provided directly by audiologists.

Services provided by audiologists include:

    • Comprehensive Audiological Evaluations including tests of hearing sensitivity, speech understanding, middle ear function, inner ear and auditory nerve function.
    • Diagnostic Tests for Balance/Dizziness Disorders.
    • Auditory Processing Evaluations for Children and Adults.
    • Design, selection and fitting of hearing instruments and/or assistive listening devices.
    • Design, selection, installation and monitoring of classroom amplification systems.
    • Hearing conservation programs for industry.
    • Rehabilitation therapy for hearing disorders which might include strategies to improve aided and unaided hearing, speech-reading (including lip-reading) and sign language.
    • Rehabilitation for Auditory Processing Disorders.
    • Rehabilitation for Vestibular (balance) Disorders.

Why should I see an audiologist?
Audiologists hold a master’s, research doctoral (Ph.D.) or clinical doctoral (Au.D.) degree from an accredited university with special training in the prevention, identification, assessment, and rehabilitation of persons with hearing impairments. Audiologists are required to complete a full-time professional experience year and pass a demanding national comprehensive examination following completion of their master’s or doctoral program. Additionally, they are required to obtain 10 continuing education hours per year to maintain their license. By virtue of their graduate education, professional certification, and licensure, audiologists are the most qualified professionals to perform hearing tests, dispense hearing aids and assistive listening devices, provide rehabilitation services and refer patients for medical treatment.

How do I know if I have a hearing loss?
The only precise way to determine if you have a hearing loss is to have your hearing evaluated. There are a series of simple questions you can ask yourself to confirm you are having hearing difficulties: Do you often ask people to repeat what they have said? Do you need to turn the television or radio louder than others around you? Do you have trouble hearing on the telephone? Do people seem to mumble? Do you have difficulty listening to conversation when in a restaurant or noisy listening environment? If you answer yes to one or more of these questions it may be time to have your hearing tested.

Will a hearing aid make me lose more hearing?
No. Hearing aids simply bring the level of loudness within a comfortable range for you. In fact, research has found that hearing aids may help preserve the ability to understand speech because they allow the sensory cells in the inner ear to stay active.

Does a hearing aid help in background noise?
There are two ways of reducing background noise with current technology. One way is through the use of directional/dual microphone technology. These instruments often allow the patient to “turn off” the back microphone when background noise is interfering with speech. Many of the products available also offer the ability for the hearing aid to automatically select the best program for each listening environment. This way the patient doesn’t have to do anything!

The second way to improve communication in the presence of background noise is through the use of 100% digital hearing aids. The FDA has developed very stringent guidelines regarding hearing instruments that are advertised as reducing background noise. In order for a hearing aid to be advertised as reducing background noise it has to have been clinically tested and receive FDA approval. Please be aware that there are no hearing instruments available that remove all background noise. The newest hearing aid technology contains 100% digital sound processing which measures and reduces "noise-like" sound with a series of mathematical computations. If you tried hearing aids and could not adapt due to the overwhelming amplification of background noise, you will find digital hearing aids and directional/dual microphone technology a major improvement.

How often do hearing aids need to be replaced?
The life span of a hearing aid depends on many factors. In general, hearing instruments have an average life of four to six years. Care of the hearing instrument is an important factor. If hearing aids are protected from ear wax and moisture damage, they may last longer than the above estimates.

How often do hearing aids need to be repaired?
Hearing aids are fragile instruments that need daily maintenance. The majority of hearing aid problems are caused by ear wax and moisture. Hearing aids can be repaired either at your audiologist’s office or by the manufacturer. In order to insure proper operation of your hearing instrument it may be necessary for you to return to your audiologist several times per year. These visits may include cleaning and checking your hearing instrument, as well as annual hearing tests to insure the hearing aid is set appropriately for you.

Manufacturers offer warranties of generally one year to three years on new instruments, and typically six months to one year on repaired hearing aids. Many offices offer extended warranties on their new and/or repaired instruments. Talk with your audiologist about warranty options.

Do I need to wear two hearing aids?
If you have a hearing loss in both ears the answer is yes. When sound enters both ears, it becomes louder than if you only listened out of one ear. The ability to locate where sounds are coming from is improved when both ears have amplification. It is also more natural to amplify both ears. If you need corrective lenses for your eyes, would you consider a monocle? Probably not. Your brain adjusts better when it receives information equally from both sides, especially in background noise.

Are hearing aids covered by insurance?
Some insurance plans do cover the cost of hearing instruments, while others may cover only a partial cost or reimburse the patient for a set amount. You should always check with your particular insurance plan to see if you have coverage for hearing aids.

At present, Medicare does not cover the cost of hearing aids. They do however cover some of the costs of examination. It is always best to discuss payment options with your audiologist before services are rendered.

What is the youngest age a child can have his/her hearing tested?
Audiologists can test children of any age, including newborns. In fact, the Ohio Legislature just passed a Universal Newborn/Infant Hearing Screening Bill that will require all hospitals in Ohio to provide hearing screenings for all newborns. Newborns, infants and toddlers can be tested using non-invasive methods that either record the brain’s response to sound [Auditory Brainstem Response Audiometry (ABR)], or by introducing sounds via a probe in the ear and measuring the ear’s response to those sounds [Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs)]. When a child is old enough to localize sounds, he/she can undergo behavioral testing in a sound booth using visual reinforcement and/or play audiometry. Children three years old and older can generally be tested much like adults.

How do I get more information on hearing loss and hearing aids?
Please see our Resources section for web sites that may provide more specific information regarding your hearing and or balance problem.

How can I ask an audiologist a question?
Easy, use the Contact Us section and we will try to help you.