So, you ordered your book, The Consumer Handbook on Hearing Loss and Hearing Aids: A Bridge to Healing, you found an audiologist in your area, and now you need to make an appointment.
Depending on the practice, you may be able to get an appointment same day or have to wait a week or more. In order to save you time and effort, I’d like to explain what different practices might need to get you scheduled. First, the matter of health insurance…
Medicare and other insurance plans should cover a percentage of at least one medically ordered hearing test per calendar year. If you are concerned about this coverage make sure to ask the scheduling staff at the office and/or your insurance company about your coverage for hearing tests.
Most insurances (including Medicare) DO NOT cover hearing aids or hearing aid services. Yours might though – it can’t hurt to call them and find out. Make sure to ask if you have coverage, exactly what is covered. They may tell you there is a specific dollar amount they will cover or specific practices they will cover. If they only cover hearing aids from a storefront dispenser – I recommend evaluating your visits and options with BOTH the audiologist and the place your insurance covers. This way you can make the best decision for you. The amount of coverage you have at one place may be outweighed by how much more you like another place or the options they have.
Now, some things depend on who you are calling…
A Medical Practice with an ENT and an Audiologist:
When you call they will want to know all of your ear, nose, throat related problems which can include things like hearing loss, sinus problems, and swallowing problems. Indicate that you would like to schedule a hearing test, if you are aware that you have ear wax build-up, and that you would like to talk to the audiologist about hearing aids. Depending on their schedule and protocol, they may need to schedule you on two separate days: one day for your hearing test and medical evaluation and another for your hearing aid evaluation. You may have a medical issue that needs to be addressed before your hearing aid evaluation and they prefer to schedule this evaluation after the visit with the ENT and the hearing test.
A Private Practice Audiologist:
Indicate you would like a hearing test and hearing aid evaluation. If you think you have ear wax build-up ask if they perform ear wax removal there or if you should see a physician first (audiologists are certified to remove ear wax and do it very often, but some prefer not to). They should be able to schedule this all on one day, though, they may require you see an ENT before hearing aids can be ordered for you.
If they feel your hearing loss does not warrant a medical evaluation prior to ordering, they may simply have you sign a waiver of medical evaluation. This practice is perfectly sound if they say they do not feel you need to see a physician, however, you can always opt to see one prior to purchasing hearing aids. The audiologist will gladly recommend someone in the area and the front desk staff may even be able to make an appointment with the other office for you.
– Do not clean your ears with cotton swabs in preparation for this visit, a little ear wax is normal and no problem, earwax jammed deep in the ear can be a problem.
– If possible, it is nice to bring a friend or family member with you to the hearing aid evaluation appointment. They can help provide details you may not have thought of and be an extra set of ears so you can chat about the topic later with someone.
– Do not expect to get hearing aid prices over the phone. They may give you some information but you are not doing yourself a service. I will discuss what is included in the cost of a hearing aid later but just know that every practice includes different things so price comparisons are not like comparing apples to apples.
Your appointment has been made, now what?
So, whilst you wait for your appointment you can read the book mentioned above, make a list of places/situations you have difficulty hearing or understanding, and your questions about and expectations of hearing aids. This will help get the juices flowing for when you talk to the audiologist. Make sure during the visit that you understand what you need to know to make good decisions, but also keep in mind the time allotted for your visit – there is a lot of information both you and the audiologist need to acquire to help you. If you have a lot of questions you may need to make a second appointment.