Frequently Asked Questions

What is an audiologist?

An audiologist is a licensed healthcare professional who provides services to identify, diagnose, prevent and treat hearing, balance and other auditory disorders. All Denver Health audiologists have obtained a Doctor of Audiology degree (Au.D), are licensed by the state of Colorado and have obtained certification through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

What is the difference between an audiologist and an ENT doctor?

An ENT doctor, or an otolaryngologist, is a medical physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the ears, nose and throat. An otolaryngologist can make medical recommendations, order tests, perform surgery and write prescriptions for medications.  An audiologist is a professional who can test your hearing, diagnose the type of hearing loss and degree of severity; and recommend, fit and program hearing aids. The two professions work together as a team to help manage your hearing healthcare needs and keep your ears healthy and hearing as well as possible.

What is the difference between an audiologist and a hearing instrument specialist?

  • A hearing instrument specialist (HIS or BC-HIS), is a professional who provides services solely for the testing, selection and fitting of hearing aids in adult patients. In the state of Colorado, an HIS is required to have passed a national exam, must be a minimum of 18 years of age and must hold a high school diploma.
  • An audiologist is a professional who is trained to provide services for all types of hearing loss, for both adults and pediatric patients. They are also trained to evaluate disorders affecting balance and tinnitus. Audiologists in the state of Colorado are required to have an advanced degree, a Doctor of Audiology (Au.D), which entails four years of undergraduate education, and a four year doctoral program.

Do I really need hearing aids?

After your hearing has been evaluated, your audiologist will examine your results and determine if you meet the criteria for hearing aids. If you do meet the criteria, they will recommend that you use hearing aids. Using hearing aids will not only help you hear the sounds around you, they can also make speech and conversation easier to understand, and can make sure that your brain and auditory nerve are receiving enough auditory stimulation to remain active and healthy. Additionally, research has indicated that untreated hearing loss may contribute to an increased risk for cognitive problems, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

If you are a hearing aid candidate, we highly recommend that you use your hearing aids during all waking hours every day, including times when you are home by yourself. Even the smaller sounds, such as a sink running or a drawer opening, are sound stimulation that we want your brain to receive. Patients who can wear their hearing aids all the time will likely perform better with their hearing aids in difficult noisy places, as their brains have had a chance to get used to the sound in quieter, easier environments. Think of listening in quiet places as practice for your brain!

Do I need one or two hearing aids?

The answer depends on your hearing. If both ears hear equally and you are a hearing aid candidate, then ideally you should be using a hearing aid in both ears. Listening with two ears will make it easier for you to localize, or to find where a sound is coming from. Additionally, your brain gets an extra boost of volume and clarity when both ears can work together. We have two ears for a reason!

Will my insurance pay for hearing aids?

The best way to know whether your insurance plan will cover the cost of hearing aids is to call the customer service number on the back of your insurance card. Every insurance plan is different. Some plans may cover the entire cost of the hearing aids, some may cover at least a portion of the cost and some may not provide a hearing aid benefit. Your audiologist may be able to help you determine if you have hearing aid coverage.

My baby didn’t pass his newborn hearing screening. Does that mean he’s deaf?

Not necessarily. The newborn hearing screening is a way to determine if a baby may need further testing to evaluate their hearing. While most babies will pass their hearing screening before they leave the hospital, some babies may still have fluid blocking their ear canals, causing the test not to pass. Some babies may pass, but have additional risk factors that would require further monitoring. The first step is to make an appointment with an audiologist for a repeat hearing screening. The audiologist will then determine if a formal diagnostic test should be performed, or if continued monitoring of your baby’s hearing is warranted.

My child is being referred to a speech therapist. Why is she required to have a hearing test first?

Speech development concerns are one of the most common reasons why a child may have a hearing test. Most speech therapists will request that a child receive a complete hearing test to make sure that hearing problems, such as a slight hearing loss or recurring ear infections, are not the ultimate cause of the delayed language development. A majority of language learning in children occurs just by overhearing the conversation around them, and if hearing is compromised, it can make learning to speak very difficult.  If ear issues are the cause of the speech or language delay, they should be addressed as soon as possible to make sure your child has appropriate access to speech and language.

What is the difference between a hearing aid from an audiologist and a hearing device I can buy online or over the counter?

Over the counter hearing devices, commonly known as personal sound amplification products, or PSAPs, are not the same as a true hearing aid. While hearing aids are programmed to exactly match your specific hearing loss, a PSAP may have one or more generic settings. This means that a PSAP may not provide enough volume in the areas your ears need, providing limited benefit. On the other hand, some PSAPs may actually be much too loud for you, which risks damaging your hearing further. Because PSAPs are also designed to be one-size-fits-all, the device may not fit your ear correctly, possibly causing discomfort or falling out often. A true hearing aid will be fit specifically for you by a professional, ensuring that they will be an appropriate size, style and volume.

Why do I hear ringing in my ears?

Ringing, hissing, humming or buzzing in the ears that is not caused by something in the room is known as tinnitus. The most common cause of tinnitus is hearing loss, and many patients notice that their tinnitus improves with hearing aid use. However, tinnitus can also be caused or worsened by many different factors, such as stress, lack of sleep, teeth grinding or clenching, neck tension or caffeine use. We recommend scheduling a visit for a hearing test, where an audiologist can help you figure out the cause of your tinnitus and determine any possible strategies for help.
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