Why It Pays To Consult An Independent Audiologist
Hearing disorders affect people of all ages. An Independent Audiologist can provide professional advice and the most appropriate service.
Adults with hearing loss suffer impacts to work productivity and psychosocial stress. Hearing loss in children affects psychosocial development, as well as speech and language development and academic performance.
Consulting an Independent Audiologist in Australia
Even though hearing disorders are growing, there are relatively few independent audiologists in Australia. The Independent Audiologists Australia organisation (IAA) currently has fewer than 95 members representing 300 clinic sites. If an audiologist is not an IAA member, they’re likely not operating the clinic independently.
IAA is a not-for-profit organisation that promotes and only supports the clinical practices owned by legitimate audiologists—that’s important so that you can get independent professional advice about your hearing and related health concerns.
Professional Training of Audiologists
All IAA audiologists are university-qualified at post-graduate level. A person cannot work as an Australian audiologist unless they hold an audiology masters degree and a certificate of clinical practice issued by Audiology Australia or ACAud. Their coursework is comprehensive and includes anatomy, physiology, genetics, acoustics and linguistics. Australian audiologists spend a minimum of five years at university.
New graduates also do a one-year clinical internship, in which experienced audiologists closely supervise them in clinical practice. After the internship, they receive a Certificate of Clinical Practice (CCP). Furthermore, foreign audiologists who relocate to Australia also must sit for an exam and complete the clinical internship before becoming certified.
The Credibility of an Independent Audiology Clinic
Nothing is free in life. This is a great mantra to follow. IAA members must own or have a financial interest in an audiology business with at least 50 percent ownership by audiologists. As a patient, that assures you of an independent practice and advice.
There are two other financially-related items to look for when choosing a clinic. If your clinic offers either one of these, they are likely not an independent audiologist, so think twice about getting your audiology advice or hearing aid from them.
First, most independent audiologists do not offer free hearing tests as a gimmick to get you in the door. There is great value in the hearing test, and it is well worthwhile paying for them. The audiologist will first listen to your symptoms, then decide on the hearing test best suited to determine your current hearing ability. Common tests are :
- Pure tone air and bone conduction hearing tests
- Speech hearing tests
- Acoustic reflexes
Second, ask about how the staff is compensated. Are they salaried, or do they receive commissions and incentives for selling hearing aids and related equipment?
Independent audiologists typically only have salaried staff who do not receive sales commissions of any kind. This practice ensures that the client’s best interest is always in the forefront. As a patient, your choice of a hearing aid should be based on several factors such as:
- Your hearing loss
- Your lifestyle
- Your budget
But never on whether money is going into the pocket of the person selling the equipment to you.
Not All Audiology Clinics Are Created Equal
When there is a higher demand for any product or service, providers pop up seemingly out of nowhere to provide that product or service to consumers. Unfortunately, not all hearing aid clinics are created equal. They don’t always have professional standards, and many have dollar signs—rather than your care—as their primary concern and motivation.
Each year, the Australia Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) investigates a growing number of complaints against hearing aid clinics. Consumers often receive treatment from untrained and unqualified staff and are often sold and oversold on hearing aids and equipment they don’t even need.
What to Expect when You Consult an Independent Audiologist
As a part of your consultation with an independent audiologist, you can expect the following care:
- A comprehensive diagnostic audiological assessment and comprehensive case history including the otological health, hearing requirements and lifestyle factors
- Evidence-based rehabilitation plans that may or may not include prescribed hearing aids
- If hearing devices are prescribed, they are selected to meet clinical and family needs, as well as auditory and cognitive abilities
Get the Best Choice of Hearing Aids with Independent Advice
An independent audiology clinic will provide the right advice for your specific circumstances and can recommend appropriate hearing aids (or other treatment) based on your unique needs.
With one hundred thousand Australians getting a new hearing aid each year, the ABC TV series The Checkout researched and presented a compelling program that clarifies the value of independent advice.
Mark Sutton discovers that some hearing clinics may be more like sales centres than medical practices. Watch the video here:
The Checkout’s above coverage of audiology and hearing aids includes a clear focus on the difference between profession and industry, focussing on qualifications of practitioners, devices vs services, business ownership and independent audiologists.
IAA has been actively appealing to both state and federal government agencies to implement a formal registration process for audiologists to rein in this problem. So far, this has not happened, which is why it is even more vital for you to see an independent audiologist who has a sole focus on patient outcomes, and nothing more.
Look for the Right Professional Advice
In summary, as a patient, you need the right professional advice, and an independent audiology clinic can best serve you. They will not become compromised by commercial pressure to sell you hearing aids.
Healthy Hearing & Balance Care is owned and managed by independent audiologist Dr Celene McNeill who is an active member and past vice-president of IAA.
- Audiology Australia: http://audiology.asn.au/index.cfm/consumers/learning-about-audiologists/qualifications/ [Accessed March 17 2018]
- Independent Audiologists of Australia: https://independentaudiologists.net.au/. [Accessed March 17 2018].
- Shaik MAM, et al. Hearing and Balance Disorders: Demographics and Demand for Services. Hawaii J Med Public Health.2017 May;76(5):123-127.