Here are some general guidelines to follow when choosing who to visit first for your hearing or vestibular disorder:
For Emergencies such as sudden, dramatic hearing loss, extreme pain, excessive bleeding, and head injuries please visit your local emergency room.
See an audiologist for hearing or vestibular conditions that have occurred gradually without incident or injury to your ears. Audiologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss and vestibular disorders. You can see an audiologist at anytime in the course of your treatment for a hearing or vestibular disorder. Audiologists will refer you to a medical specialist if symptoms and/or diagnosis are questionable or an obvious medical condition exists. Often hearing loss is caused by factors that are not medically treatable such as age, long-term noise exposure or hereditary hearing loss. Seeing an audiologist first can help you determine the best course of treatment for your hearing loss.
Audiologists have specialized training in the treatment of hearing loss including hearing aids, assistive devices, alerting devices, treatment of tinnitus (ringing in the ear), treatment of hyperacusis (sensitivity to loud sound), treatment of auditory processing disorders, and other disorders that affect hearing. Physicians rarely have this knowledge and unless they have attended an audiology degree program they would not be able to provide these services in a comprehensive manner without referral to an audiologist.
See a physician for any obvious medical conditions: sudden and dramatic changes in hearing, pain, drainage, unusual odor, injury, bleeding, skin lesions, debilitating dizziness and vertigo, etc. Physicians can prescribe medications or imaging (CT Scan or MRI) if necessary. Some physicians can also perform surgery where hearing loss is reversible.
In some offices you will find audiologists and physicians working side-by-side within the same practice. Today it is more common for physicians and audiologists to have independent practices and refer to each other when needed. Many insurance plans do not require a referral to be seen by and audiologist, however it is recommended that you confirm coverage before making an appointment to be seen.
Medicare patients are currently required to provide a referral from a physician for coverage of audiological services. In time Medicare patients will have the option to see an audiologist directly just as you have the option to see a Dentist, Optometrist or Chiropractor without a referral. Currently those under federal health plans are allowed direct access to audiologists. Would you like to have the same privilege and the ability to control your healthcare decisions when it comes to your hearing care? This will depend on the passing of Medicare Hearing Health Care Enhancement Act of 2007 (HR 1665- the Direct Access bill) and you can help by contacting your government officials through this website sponsored by the American Academy of Audiology.
HearWell Center strives to meet the needs of each individual patient by working as a team with the other medical specialists in the community. We will communicate with your family doctor and any specialist you see where necessary to ensure proper follow up and treatment.