If you’ve decided to get your hearing tested, the next question is where to go. Compared to a few years ago, there are now many different clinics available to choose from.
Whichever hearing care provider you pick, you’ll be trusting them to objectively assess and advise based on your needs, not theirs.
So how do you pick a reliable hearing clinic? Here are 11 questions to ask.
1. Are your clinicians accredited audiologists?
Audiology and audiometry may sound similar but there’s a big difference in skills.
Independent Audiologists Australia explains the difference in qualifications like this…
“An audiologist receives a Master’s degree qualification in Audiology, following a minimum of five years of university study. The minimum qualification for an audiometrist is the successful completion of a TAFE Diploma of Audiometry, followed by a further two years of on-the-job training, often focussed on sales techniques and upselling.”
As you can see, audiologists are rigorously trained, highly skilled professionals who’ve worked hard to gain and maintain professional accreditation.
2. Do you have any preferred supplier agreements? What are they?
The hearing care industry differs from other allied healthcare services in that many clinics are either owned by the manufacturers of the devices required for treatment or have agreements with suppliers to offer one hearing aid in preference of others.
These agreements are referred to as “preferred supplier agreements” and in 2020 the Australian Governments Hearing Service Program began requiring their contracted service providers to display a “Device Supply Disclosure” to help clients of the program understand what agreements are in place.
This matters because each hearing aid manufacturer approaches sound processing differently. As a result, some hearing devices perform well in situations other devices struggle. When considering your options, seek a clinic that offers independence from hearing aid manufacturers and do not receive bonuses or incentives for providing one product over another.
3. How do your prices compare to other clinics?
Prices charged for hearing assessments and hearing aids can vary significantly from one clinic to another. Prices can be influenced by supplier agreements or by the strategic decision of management.
Always ring around to compare prices as some clinics charge above, or below, the standard rate, so it is worth understanding why. Doing your research will give you an opportunity to get a feel for how the clinic treats its patients. If something doesn’t feel right, it might not be the clinic for you.
4. Do your clinicians get commissions or incentives for fitting me with a hearing aid?
Whilst you may not expect healthcare professionals to get commissions for achieving sales targets, it is common practice. Does that affect the clinician’s decision-making? Is their recommendation based on your need, lifestyle and budget, or something else?
We believe you deserve genuinely impartial advice that is based on your needs, not ours. That’s why we don’t work to any sales targets and don’t take a cent in commission.
5. What’s the difference between a cheaper hearing aid and a more expensive hearing aid?
A reputable audiologist will explain that most devices on the Australian market perform well in quiet environments and one on one. However, for better performance in difficult listening environments, special circumstances, or for more advanced features, a more expensive hearing aid may be required. An open conversation with your Audiologist will allow you to explore your needs more thoroughly and will likely result in a better balance between performance and your budget.
A clinician motivated to sell you a more expensive device may say that your hearing loss is so severe that you need an expensive hearing aid, or they may make emotional appeals saying, “don’t you deserve the best one?”.
What you really need is the most suitable one. The hearing aid compensates for your hearing loss and enables you to enjoy your unique lifestyle. The priciest device may not be the best if a cheaper version suits your life and budget better.
6. How do you make sure that the hearing aids’ output will match my prescription?
There is only one correct answer here. Your clinician should perform real ear measurements (REMs).
REM’s are the clinical gold standard for fitting hearing aids. They give us an objective measurement of the acoustic output of a hearing aid when it’s placed in your ear canal. The basic procedure involves placing a tiny microphone into your ear canal whilst you are wearing the hearing aid. This allows us to measure the sound pressure level, or gain, provided by the hearing aid.
If your clinician doesn’t use REMs, then they are not checking that your hearing aids’ output matches your prescription. They’re just relying on a computer’s best guess.
7. I have difficulty hearing in noise – how can you help me with that?
Did you know that it’s possible to objectively test your ability to hear speech in noise? It’s called ‘speech in noise’ testing and is the first step in helping those who suffer from this problem.
Most people love going out for a meal or chatting to friends at a party. Not being able to hear what’s being said takes all the fun out of it, making a quiet night at home look like your only option.
If you tell your clinician that you can’t hear well in noise, expect them to perform a speech in noise test. This shows that they understand your situation and are motivated to help you with it.
8. Which hearing aid do you sell the most of, why?
Some hearing aid clinics respond to the challenge of different patients with different hearing losses by always recommending the same hearing aid. Hearing aid selection should be as unique and varied as the clinic’s clientele.
Ask which is their bestselling hearing aid and why. Check if they’re taking a ‘cookie cutter’ approach to hearing care rather than providing personalised treatment for each patient.
9. Can you tell me how you ensure you get good outcomes?
Good outcomes don’t happen by chance. They result from the rigorous application of a patient centred care methodology.
When we’re asked this by a prospective patient or client, we explain that we achieve good outcomes by:
- Listening carefully to the details of where you are experiencing difficulties
- Taking time to understand and develop your hearing goals
- Performing in depth clinical assessments and explaining the results
- Giving you time to come to terms with any diagnosis of hearing loss
- Never rushing you down a treatment pathway
- Counselling you to help develop realistic expectations
- Encouraging you to enjoy an active and interesting life through better hearing rehabilitation.
10. Should I bring someone with me? If so, why?
Hearing and communication is a two-way street. Good Audiologists understand this.
When we encourage patients to bring their spouse along to A Better Ear, it’s because we know that hearing loss has ramifications for the whole family. Even without a hearing aid, there are many techniques we can teach to you and your spouse to improve communication and overcome some of the frustration of living with hearing loss.
11. Hearing aids often end up “in the top drawer”. How will you help me avoid disappointment?
The problem of hearing aid abandonment is the unfortunate result of many of the issues we’ve already mentioned above.
It usually happens when:
- Your clinician has not spent time listening to the impact of hearing loss on your life, your hearing goals, and your readiness to wear a hearing aid.
- Your clinician may be motivated to sell you a device even though you might not be ready to wear one.
- You have been sold the wrong device for your needs.
A hearing aid languishing in a drawer represents wasted money and a missed opportunity to improve your hearing and quality of life.
Seek out a clinic that gives you a proper consultation and appropriate counselling.
What makes A Better Ear different?
A Better Ear was founded by a master’s qualified Audiologist to provide a fully independent option with equal access to all hearing aids on the Australian Market. As a result, our model of care has a completely different premise to most clinics you have seen. We’re here to help you hear as well as possible because we love seeing people communicate with confidence again.
Our special focus on reducing the impact of hearing loss and improving social connectedness, leads to better outcomes and helps people live the active and independent lives they desire.
Start you journey toward better hearing by booking a consultation today.
All information is general in nature. Patients should consider their own personal circumstances and seek a second opinion.