FAQs

Frequently asked questions about hearing aids, tinnitus and audiological care.

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What is an Audiologist?

Audiologists are healthcare professionals who evaluate, diagnose, treat, and manage hearing loss and hearing conditions like tinnitus and balance disorders.

An audiologist holds a minimum of a Master's degree in Audiology. Professionals seeking education in Audiology who do not currently hold a Master’s degree must now pursue a Doctoral degree in Audiology (Au.D). Audiologists must be licensed in the state where they practice, and are regulated by the Division of Consumer Affairs.

An audiologist may be awarded the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), otherwise known as the CCC-A. With additional training and expertise, the audiologist may receive the honor of Fellow, which is bestowed by the American Academy of Audiology (AAA).

What type of tests do Audiologists perform?

Common services and treatments provided by an audiologist include:

  • Diagnostic hearing tests and evaluations
  • Audiologic evaluations
  • Hearing aid fitting and consultation
  • Hearing aid repairs and maintenance
  • Pediatric hearing loss detection and treatment
  • Hearing conservation and protection programs
  • Earmold and earplug fitting and consultation
  • Musicians earplugs and monitors
  • Tinnitus treatment programs
  • Dizziness and balance testing and treatment
  • Ear or hearing-related surgical monitoring in hospital settings
  • Hearing rehabilitation and auditory training
  • Assisting in cochlear implant programs
  • Insurance billing for medically necessary diagnostic testing and hearing aids, when patients have policies that cover these benefits

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Audiologist versus Hearing Aid Dispenser: What is the difference?

There are vast differences in the professional roles in diagnosing and treatment of hearing loss. It is still common today for someone to get screened, tested, or fitted with a hearing aid by someone and still not know what qualifications that person had. How do you know who you can trust? An important distinction to understand when treating your hearing loss is the difference between an Audiologist and a hearing aid dispenser. An Audiologist is a Doctor of Audiology who is extensively trained in the science of hearing; while a hearing aid dispenser applies for a license after meeting some basic requirements (see below).

Audiologist: An Audiologist is trained to diagnose, treat and monitor disorders of the hearing and balance system. They are trained in anatomy and physiology, amplification devices, cochlear implants, electrophysiology, acoustics, psychophysics and auditory rehabilitation. Doctors of Audiology complete, at a minimum, an undergraduate and doctoral level degree in audiology, as well as a supervised externship prior to state licensure and national certification. This usually requires 8 years of post-secondary education (4 years of college and 4 years of graduate school). The graduate school years focus on the medical, diagnostic and rehabilitative aspects of hearing loss, hearing aids and the vestibular system. Upon completion of training, Audiologists must also pass a national standardized examination in order to be eligible for state licensure. Continuing education requirements must be met in order for an Audiologist to maintain state licensure.

Hearing Aid Dispenser: A hearing aid dispenser is licensed to perform audiometric testing for the sole purpose of selling and fitting hearing aids. In order to obtain a license, hearing aid dispensers are required to pass an exam. Prior to taking the exam, certain requirements must be met, which vary from state to state. In many states, hearing aid dispensers are only required to have a high school diploma. In other states, hearing aid dispensers must complete two years of college or post-secondary education in any field prior to applying for licensure. Some states require completion of distance learning coursework prior to taking the exam.

In summary, the requirement for state licensure to dispense hearing aids is based on the minimum education necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of the patient. The differences in education required for Audiologists versus hearing aid dispensers reflect the significantly larger range of professional practices that Audiologists are permitted to engage in.

Audiologists are highly trained degree professionals. Audiologists receive extensive training in assessment of hearing, diagnosis, fitting and adjustment of hearing aids that helps to ensure:

  • An accurate diagnosis;
  • An appropriate treatment plan of intervention;
  • A positive outcome from the hearing aid.

What style of hearing aid do I need?

There are many types of hearing aids today, and the style or device is dependent upon the user's individual needs. There are in-the-ear styles as well as behind-the-ear styles. Also, hearing aid technology has advanced, with many new and improved options from which to choose.

Hearing aids are available in many different sizes and styles, thanks to advancements in digital technology and miniaturization of the internal components. Many of today's hearing aids are considered sleek, compact, and innovative - offering solutions to a wide range of hearing aid users. When selecting a style of hearing aid, the following should be considered:

  • The type/degree of the hearing loss
  • Power requirements
  • Manual dexterity and visual abilities
  • Budget
  • Cosmetics and aesthetics
  • Skin sensitivities
  • Anatomical and medical considerations

What are Assistive Listening Devices?

People with all types and degrees of hearing loss can benefit from an assistive listening device (ALD). Since the microphone of a typical hearing aid is worn on or behind your ear, its ability to enhance the talker-to-background-noise ratio is limited. However, ALDs are designed to increase the loudness of a desired voice, such as a radio, television, or a public speaker, without increasing the background noise. This is because the microphone of the assistive listening device is placed close to the talker or device of interest, while the microphone of the hearing aid is always close to the listener.

ALDs include alarm clocks, TV listening systems, telephone amplifying devices, and auditorium-type assistive listening systems. Many newer devices are small, wireless, and compatible with a person’s digital hearing aids. Alarms and other home ALDs may be small devices that are placed discreetly on tables, next to the TV, or on the wall.

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a common disorder affecting over 50 million people in the United States. It is often referred to as "ringing in the ears," although some people hear hissing, roaring, whistling, chirping, or clicking. Tinnitus, often called head noise, is not a disease, but a symptom of another underlying condition of the ear, auditory nerve, or elsewhere. Tinnitus can be intermittent or constant, with single or multiple tones. Its perceived volume can range from very soft to extremely loud.

What causes tinnitus?

The exact cause of tinnitus is not known in every case. However, there are several likely factors which may cause tinnitus or make existing head noise worse. These include:

  • Noise-induced hearing loss
  • Wax build-up in the ear canal
  • Certain medications
  • Ear or sinus infections
  • Age-related hearing loss
  • Ear diseases and disorders
  • Jaw misalignment
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Certain types of tumors
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Head and neck trauma


How is tinnitus treated?

Generally, most patients will not need any medical treatment for tinnitus. There are several treatments and measures to help with the management of tinnitus including:

  • Listening to a fan or radio
  • Tinnitus-masking devices
  • Biofeedback training
  • Avoidance measures
  • Avoidance of certain medications
  • Hearing aids, if the listener also has a hearing loss

If these measures do not work, there are several medications that have been utilized to suppress tinnitus. Some patients benefit with these drugs and others do not. Each patient has an individual response to medication, and what works for one patient may not work for another.


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About North Side Audiology

North Side Audiology Group is a leader in audiological care specializing in the treatment of hearing loss. Services include comprehensive hearing evaluations, hearing aid fittings & programming, hearing loss rehabilitation and more. We are open Monday-Friday from 8:30am-5:00pm. Our practice is conveniently located in North Side Chicago at 4200 W. Peterson Avenue, Suite 100.

(773) 777-3277

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