Audiology Awareness Month: Choose wisely

Monday, October 1, 2018

By: Jeff Ash

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During October, which is Audiology Awareness Month, a gentle reminder: If you have a hearing loss, choose wisely.


You could buy a hearing aid from a hearing instrument specialist OR you could buy a hearing aid from an audiologist. Know the difference.


In Wisconsin, hearing instrument specialists must have a high school education and pass practical and written examinations to be licensed. Audiologists have more extensive and more sophisticated training. Audiologists typically hold four-year bachelor’s degrees, often in communicative disorders, then earn a four-year doctorate in audiology, which includes hands-on training in a medical clinic and working with patients.


“With our medical background, if, for example, there are some middle ear issues, we’re going to find that, we’re going to see that and recognize it. Whereas, if you went to someone that is just selling you a hearing aid, they’re not going to know what they’re looking at,” says Dr. Andrea Federman, an audiologist with Hearing Center BayCare Clinic in Green Bay.


“When we do a hearing test, we analyze those results. That’s a little bit different from a hearing instrument provider who is going to do a quick test before the fitting,” Federman says.


Comprehensive evaluations done by an audiologist can include hearing sensitivity, speech understanding, middle ear function, and inner ear and auditory nerve function.


As an example, Federman says, “if there’s some discrepancy between the ears, if there is a bone gap, meaning we put the bone vibrator behind and we take the middle ear out of the picture, if those results don’t match, there’s a medical issue there. That’s an automatic referral to Ear, Nose and Throat. People don’t always get that elsewhere.”


While hearing aids purchased from an audiologist may cost more than those bought from a big box store, they often cost less than those from franchised offices that typically are staffed by hearing instrument dispensers. When fitted by an audiologist, you’re paying for the technology as well as the service and expertise to find what most closely matches your needs.


“When it comes to fitting and patient care, you’re getting your service and your aids all bundled together. That’s the big difference,” Federman says.


That, and cutting-edge hearing technology.


“At a big box store, what you’re buying is a hearing aid that is not the latest in technology. What these manufacturers are selling to big box stores are two or three generations behind. You’re buying stuff we would have fit maybe a year or two before,” Federman says.


“At a big box store, you’re not going to get things like tinnitus maskers built into the hearing aid, or a rechargeable battery option, and that’s what we have. They don’t do anything custom, which means they can’t take an ear impression and do a custom-fitted ear piece. We do all of that.”


Drs. Andrea Federman, Jessie Grzeca and Heather Schwartz see people of all ages at Hearing Center BayCare Clinic in Green Bay. Dr. Schwartz also serves Marinette. To request an appointment, call 920-288-8230 or 866-431-7431 in Green Bay, 715-735-3187 or 888-766-4684 in Marinette, or do so online.

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BayCare Clinic,, is the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. BayCare Clinic offers expertise in more than 20 specialties, with more than 100 physicians serving in 16 area communities. BayCare Clinic is a joint partner in Aurora BayCare Medical Center, a 167-bed, full-service hospital. Follow BayCare Clinic on Facebook and Twitter.