EarTalk with Christo April 2021 - About Your First Appointment

Time to Read: 15 minutes

This is Part 1 of Christo's April EarTalk webinar transcript. You can find the full video here.



What to ask a clinician at your first appointment

VH-Assessment-differenceWhen it comes to asking questions to your hearing specialist, the first key thing here is don't be afraid to ask.

You're about to part with a lot of money and you're looking at a solution that should last you at least five years, if not more, so it's important that it's the right solution.

A very important question to ask is, ‘why did the clinician recommend this particular model for you’. They they need to be able to relate the model and its features back to your needs as they've assessed during your initial appointment.

At the initial appointment, the clinician will ask you a series of questions to try to understand where you're having difficulties with your hearing. They'll look at things like tinnitus and other problems you might have. They need to be able to come back and relate those issues you have to what the hearing aid is capable of doing for you.

Another important factor is whether or not  they relate the hearing aids features back to your performance in background noise. So, during your hearing assessment, hopefully the clinician will take you through a test called a speech-in-noise test, not to be confused with the normal word test, where we simply repeat words back to the clinician, but a test where you have to repeat sentences, and with every sentence that's played there's more and more party noise background babble going on.

By going through that test, the clinician can establish your signal-to-noise ratio loss which essentially tells us how much help you need in background noise to be able to understand when you find yourself in a social or background noise situation.

Then, when the clinician makes the recommendation, they need to be able to relate the hearing aids capability back to your performance in that test.

If they're not doing that, you might either be over or under-prescribed, so it is very, very important that when they explain the hearing aid, why that's important to you, and why that's the one they would recommend that they relate it back to your needs, your clinical performance in the test, as well as your speech and noise performance.

Another important question to ask is, ‘what happens if this doesn't work for me?’. 

What happens if this doesn't work for me?

Money-Back-GuaranteeObviously you don't want to go spending potentially thousands of dollars and be unhappy, so typically you'd expect that there's some sort of money-back guarantee. Ideally, you want around 60 days because that's about the time the brain takes to get used to the new sound, and also for you to have the opportunity to to try the hearing aid in a variety of different situations.

So, do they offer full money back guarantee? Do they offer you an option to swap to another hearing aid if they found something's not working?

Be very clear on what happens if things don't work, and preferably get it all in writing because if it's not on paper it's not the case.

Another question related to that one is, ‘what other models might also work for me?’,  because a clinician may have only recommended one model or one brand. Be on the lookout specifically if it's only one brand mentioned. Ask them, ‘what other models are similar that might also work for me?’, and, ‘why weren't those chosen?’.

The reasons might be very valid, but what you want to look out for here is that the clinician is recommending, or has the ability to recommend, from a whole range of suppliers not just the single supplier, because some hearing aids and some brands do better in some situations compared to others.

It's important you understand why the right recommendation was made for you.

What support is included in the hearing aid price?

Another important question is, ‘what support is included in the hearing aid pricing?’, because you're not buying a washer or dryer or television, you're actually buying a medical device and a hearing aid is just a bit of technology.

It only comes into its full function, in full play, if it's set up correctly and supported.

Hearing aids are worn in hot and humid environments for years to come. Things go wrong, your hearing may change, so is there support included in the price of the hearing aid? Or are you simply buying an appliance?

Is this the latest model available?

It's very important that you ask what you get in the pricing that you've been quoted. You also have to ask, ‘is this the latest model available?’, because what some retailers do is buy hearing aids in bulk, then the manufacturer might release a new hearing aid and they want to get rid of stock, so they might reduce the price a little bit for you.

But the thing with hearing aids is that they are essentially computers. Like with any computer, the next generation is going to be so much better than the previous one, and with hearing, because this hearing aid is going to work for you for years to come, you don't want to buy a hearing aid as new for you which is already three years out of date. Make sure it's the latest model available.

What if something goes wrong?

The next question is, ‘what happens if something goes wrong?’, which is a little bit different from 'what happens if it doesn't work for me?'.

This relates to the future. So, ‘what if the hearing aid breaks down? Or something terribly goes wrong that it's not working for me?’.

What kind of support will this clinic provide you as far as warranty servicing etc into the future, once you pass the period where you can get your money back?


Will you use Real Ear Measurement?

And, another important question is, ‘will you be using real ear measurement?’.

This is particularly important if you’re self-funded and you're not getting the hearing aid through the government. If you're getting the hearing aid through the HSP (Hearing Services Program) voucher system, the clinician absolutely has to use real ear measurements to fit the hearing aid.

But often with private clients, it doesn't go through that very strictly regulated system. Clinicians can take shortcuts and not do real ear measurements.  

A real ear measurement is basically a personalized fitting of the hearing aid to your particular ear shape and size, meaning you get the correct sound delivered to your eardrum to give you the optimal understanding in quiet and in noise. 

So, very important to ask that.