Tips For Choosing a Hearing Care Professional
A hearing aid is an investment in your health. Among other things, it helps you maintain your independence. Choosing a hearing device is one of the most important purchases you’ll ever make because it is so much more than just ‘a piece of hardware’. Choosing a Hearing Healthcare provider is the most important step in moving forward with information regarding your hearing and hearing loss.
Licensed professionals, usually audiologists or hearing instrument specialists (HIS), fit hearing aids. An audiologist has typically completed six to eight years of higher education and holds a Masters or Doctoral degree in Audiology. An HIS typically has completed licensure requirements as dictated by the state in which they practice. Licensure requirements vary from state to state and some states require audiologists have a dispensing license, in addition to their audiology license, while other states include dispensing under their audiology licensure.
When choosing a professional to work with, it is very important to remember that this is likely to be a relationship you will maintain for many years - much like the relationship with your primary physician. You should be comfortable with your provider, and should feel that you can express concerns to them when you have them. The professional you work with is well versed in the amplification (hearing aid) options they offer, and knows how to address any concerns or issues you have with the instruments.
Experienced - knowledgeable - professional
Since a hearing aid is an electronic device and therefore cannot be prescribed like eyeglasses, an appropriate hearing aid recommendation, and fitting is greatly dependent on the judgment and skill of the professional selecting the device. Education and experience are key factors in finding a qualified hearing healthcare provider.
Connecting with hearing care providers
Sometimes the best way to find a hearing professional is the simplest way - ask your friends with hearing aids who they recommend. Primary care physicians can also have good recommendations as they often hear the good and bad reviews from other patients.
Check the clinic out online and by word of mouth. What are their reviews like? Even bad reviews offer useful information; if the only thing someone has to complain about is the color of the chairs in the waiting area, the clinic must be pretty good.
When it comes to communication channels, we have three distinct media options today: paid, owned and earned. Paid media includes print, broadcast, direct mail, and online; the hearing industry is saturated with paid media. Savvy patients have learned to dig through ads to find the information they are seeking.
Owned media does not require paying a media outlet. It includes a provider’s website, blog and newsletter. Owned media the opportunity for hearing care providers to show (not just tell) what makes them different.
Earned media is achieved when the media and consumers promote a provider’s brand. Press coverage, word of mouth, online reviews, comments on blogs, shared links and social interaction are powerful sources of earned media.
Yelp is more commonly known as a source of reviews for restaurants, bars, and shopping. However, as people increasingly are crowdsourcing their consumer transactions, patients are increasingly turning to online physician ratings, just as they have sought ratings for other products and services, healthcare providers, including audiologists, are being reviewed more and more frequently on Yelp and other sites like Google+ Local and Angie's List. There are also health-specific review sites, like Healthgrades, RateMDs, and ZocDoc.
Down the road, as the “digital native” generation grow older and more of them require hearing healthcare, online reputation management will become even more important for audiologists and other hearing care providers.