Watch CBS News

Essentials Shopping

Your hearing aid specialist should know these five things

Female doctor applying hearing aid to senior man's ear
Doctor applying hearing aid to an older man's ear. Westend61 via Getty Images

So you've talked with your doctor, completed a hearing test with an audiologist and you've just been informed that you need a hearing aid. This can be a big adjustment -- in most cases, hearing loss that affects both ears and requires a hearing aid is permanent. You deserve a team of trusted professionals to help you navigate life with hearing aids, and that includes a hearing aid specialist who knows their stuff.

A hearing aid specialist shouldn't be confused with an audiologist. Audiologists are primary care professionals who can diagnose, treat, and manage hearing loss. A hearing aid specialist isn't necessarily trained to diagnose hearing loss conditions or provide specific treatments, but they are still state-licensed professionals that can help you set up and manage the perfect hearing aid for you.

Your hearing aid specialist should know these five things

A hearing aid specialist will typically help you learn more about your hearing aid, from cleaning and maintenance to picking the most comfortable hearing aids for your situation. Navigating life with an auditory device can be confusing and frustrating, especially if you're new to the world of hearing aids. That's why it's important to work with a knowledgeable hearing aid specialist you can trust.

If you're dealing with a recent hearing loss diagnosis, vetting a new hearing aid specialist can be an easily overlooked detail. After all, you may have other professionals in your corner you can turn to, such as your primary care provider or a trusted audiologist, with any unanswered questions. But there's no denying that working with a trusted and supportive hearing aid specialist can make your life easier in the long-run.

We here at CBS Essentials have your back. Here are five key things that your hearing aid specialist should know in order to provide you the best possible guidance and support.

1. What kind of hearing loss do you have?

A professional hearing aid specialist will be able to help you at every step of the way through the process of getting evaluated for hearing loss and a hearing aid device. You want to work with someone with knowledge and experience to back up their services, so make sure you're dealing with a licensed specialist.

To start, look for a hearing aid specialist with a state license. States like New York offer licensing options for hearing aid dispensers (and more extensive licensing options for audiologists), for example. The educational requirement for a hearing aid specialist is a high school diploma or GED, but many continue on to pursue a masters or doctorate degree to further their skills and ability to help people with some degree of hearing loss. While it's not necessary, choosing a hearing aid specialist with an advanced degree can set you up for long-term success.

2. What are you hearing exam results and treatment options?

Throughout the process of completing a hearing exam and figuring out the right treatment or hearing aid for you, there's plenty of room for nuance. 

Is your hearing loss mainly centered around the outer or middle ear (conductive hearing loss), the inner ear (sensorineural hearing loss), or a mix of the two? Would surgery or cochlear implants be a better solution than hearing aids to treat your hearing loss? While a hearing specialist isn't necessarily trained to recommend or provide treatments, they can help you navigate your exam and understand your results. 

Empathy and communication skills are two key components to a good hearing specialist. You deserve to have a professional on your hearing care team that you feel comfortable discussing your exam as well as voicing any questions or concerns along the way. 

3. Which hearing aid is right for you?

While your audiologist is likely to have the final say on the matter, your hearing aid specialist will be another key point of contact between you and the ideal hearing aid for your degree of hearing loss. They should be able to discuss the pros and cons to different types of hearing aids in order to help you determine which would be a great fit -- literally.

Common hearing aid types that your specialist should be well versed on include:

  • Behind-the-ear (BTE): BTE hearing aids loop over the top of the ear, with most of the electronics in a plastic case behind it. With the largest design, these provide optimal sound amplification over other models.
  • Receiver-in-the-canal (RIC): RIC hearing aids (as well as the smaller receiver-in-the-ear, or RITE, devices) are similar to a BTE in design, but with a connecting wire in place of the BTE's earmold. This gives the ear canal more room and results in a more comfortable fit.
  • In-the-ear (ITE): ITE hearing aids are custom-made to sit entirely in the outer ear. These devices have a longer battery life and usually come with more features, such as volume control, than smaller models.
  • Completely-in-the-canal (CIC): CIC hearing aids have the smallest design, with a custom-built shell that fits in the ear canal. These are the least noticeable, but don't offer many features or the most powerful sound amplification.
  • Open fit: A variation of a BTE, an open-fit hearing aid has an over-the-ear design with an open dome in the canal instead of a tube or mold. This keeps the ear canal open for natural sound to enter the ear as well – ideal for mild to moderate hearing loss.

Your hearing specialist should also be able to help you navigate insurance coverage and choose between high quality prescription hearing aids (with varying costs that can climb well into the thousands) and budget-friendly over-the-counter (OTC) alternatives. These days, there are plenty of quality OTC hearing aids to consider.

4. How do you clean and maintain your hearing aid?

Keeping your hearing aids clean is crucial to maintaining your tiny audio device for many years to come. Your audiologist should be able to educate you on proper hearing aid cleaning tips and techniques, as well as point you in the right direction when it comes to quality hearing aid cleaning tools like the affordable and versatile 12-piece cleaning kit available on Amazon.

Your hearing aid specialist should be able to set you straight on a number of things regarding hearing aids of any type, including the following recommendations:

  • Always refer to your device's cleaning tools (if provided) and manufacturer recommendations in order to safely clean your hearing aid.
  • Keep your hearing aid clear of moisture -- wiping them down with a microfiber cloth and storing them somewhere dry overnight can help with this.
  • Clean your hearing aid once a week and make sure to schedule a more thorough cleaning from a trusted professional once every six months (hint: this is where your hearing specialist can and should help you out).

5. How do you get fitted for hearing aids?

Lastly, your hearing aid specialist should be able to help guide you through the process of getting a hearing aid professionally fitted. Details like which brand and type of hearing aid you're considering, the details surrounding your hearing loss diagnosis and the shape of your ears will all come into play when getting a hearing aid fitted for the first time, so a knowledgeable care team is important.

During your hearing aid fitting, you are also likely to get a custom mold before giving your new hearing aid a test run. A trusted hearing aid specialist can help you understand what to expect during and after this process, which can include multiple appointments. 

If you feel like you're working with a hearing aid specialist that cannot deliver on any of these points, don't be afraid to speak up or switch specialists early on.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.