So you're finally going to do something about getting your hearing checked...(1 of 2)
You've known for a while that you don't hear as well as you used to, but you've been getting by. However, your family or friends may be 'suggesting' you go get your hearing checked. You're finding it harder to enjoy television or movies because it's a little more difficult to follow the dialogue. Social situations (parties, restaurants, etc.) are a little more stressful and you find yourself straining to keep up. Business meetings and volunteer work are more challenging. Maybe people really are mumbling!
Well, what are you going to choose to do about it? A wise person once said, “In life, the only bad choice is the uninformed one.” In this case, the informed choice means getting your hearing evaluated (i.e. a hearing test).
Okay, what do I do now? Where do I go? Do I need a referral from a physician? Does insurance cover it? Will it hurt?!
These (and many more) are all good questions. But to answer that last one first, it shouldn't hurt. At most, some tests require listening to some brief (1-2 seconds), 'loudish' sounds.
The medical specialty specifically educated and trained to test, evaluate and treat hearing loss & its associated communication issues is Audiology. Practitioners are known as audiologists, and have advanced degrees in Audiology. A referral from a physician is not necessary to be evaluated by an audiologist. However, many insurance policies (including Medicare) require a referral for a “diagnostic hearing test” for the evaluation to be covered. And even though the vast majority of hearing losses do not necessitate an evaluation by a physician and have no 'medical treatment' (i.e. surgical or medications), it is certainly best medical practice to keep your physician informed about your hearing healthcare. For some types of health insurance (HMOs, Kaiser) you will need to be tested by an audiologist within that system/network. For others (PPOs, POSs), you do not need to be evaluated by an 'in-network' audiologist. However, the benefit paid may differ between in and out-of-network providers. At my practice (Berkeley Hearing Center), we are happy to contact insurance providers to determine benefits and advise our patients accordingly. Our experience with PPOs is that the benefits for audiological services (and any hearing aid benefits) are often similar in-network versus out-of-network.
You're almost there now! By scheduling your audiological evaluation, you're taking that first step towards identifying and treating your hearing/communication difficulties. If you do not know a good audiologist to work with, speak to your physician about a recommendation and referral. If you have family or friends that wear hearing aids, ask them about their audiologist. Like other medical practitioners, it's important to find someone whom you feel comfortable with, ideally someone intelligent, experienced, caring, patient and who has your best interests at heart.
Next month, I will go over what to expect when you go in for evaluation...