Firstly, there is a difference in the level of clinician you will see and this may impact on the depth of your assessment. You are able to be seen via the NHS or privately. To be seen in the NHS you need to be referred to the hospital by your G.P. Depending on where you go will depend on the level of clinician you will see. If you get tested by the hospital you will be assessed by a qualified audiologist, or a trainee audiologist. For most high street hearing centres you will see a hearing aid dispenser or hearing aid audiologist. The difference between a hearing aid audiologist/dispenser and audiologist is the difference between ophthalmologist and a dispensing optician. Your clinician should also be registered with the HCPC. Affliations to groups such as BSHAA, AHHP, BSA, BAA are not essential as membership to these organisations is voluntary.
Most high street hearing centres will offer FREE hearing tests, but remember no business operates for free! Ultimately they will try to sell to you. If you want impartial, no obligation advice then independent hearing centres that levy a small charge for their hearing test would be a better option and eliminates the pressure to buy. Hearing test prices range from £25 to £150, and in some centres the fee will be deducted from the cost of the hearing aids if you purchase them.
You should be asked questions about your current ear health and otological history in order to eliminate any referable conditions and establish likely contributing factors. Also about family history, lifestyle and physical considerations (such as dexterity) should be assessed.
You should have a visual inspection of the ear (otoscopy) which will look for infections, wax, outer and middle ear conditions.
The primary assessment, audiometry (tone testing), should be conducted in a sound proof booth in order to establish hearing thresholds, type and severity of hearing loss. The sounds (tones) will be different frequencies and will be loud and soft. There are two types of tone testing, air conduction (through headphones) and bone conduction (through pad placed at the rear of the ear). This will clarify whether you have problems in the middle, outer, or inner ear. Your responses will be registered via a hand-held button and stored electronically on an audiogram and this should be explained to you in detail.
If you have hearing loss it is often useful and important to have some speech testing done via calibrated speakers, if you are struggling to hear in noise then some form of speech testing is also useful when trying to work out what hearing aid would be most beneficial.
If you have a hearing loss, amplification should be demonstrated to you at the assessment. If you do not experience the hearing aid how do you know it will benefit you? So you should always ask for a demonstration or trial.
Should you need a hearing aid and purchase one, then you should choose an approved centre that you feel will give you the best service. Do not choose a centre based on price. If you are worried about the price but like the centre, then shop around for ‘like for like’ packages (exact hearing aid recommended not an alternative, warranty period, aftercare period, extras) to ensure the prices you get are accurate and fair. If you are dealing with a professional centre the pricing and hearing aid recommended should be clear and transparent. Hearing aids can then be fitted as quickly as 2 to 10 days from your hearing assessment.
If you would like to book a hearing assessment call Chalfont Hearing on 01494 765144.