We all know health care is in a time of transition. You and your loved ones deserve the best care, especially when it comes to hearing health. Hearing is the crux of how we communicate. Being able to communicate well and socialize is crucial to feeling connected and feeling satisfied.

Who should you choose to take care of your hearing health? I believe the person’s education, work setting, and character matter.

Those are my top three important factors in choosing someone as your hearing provider. I believe the three factors are equally important. Even if the person is the most caring and knowledgeable person, working in a place that only allows 15-20 minutes with the patient may not be sufficient. The provider may be ranked low in annual evaluations, because of spending “too much time” with patients and not bringing in enough sales. Also, if the provider has limited autonomy, that will eventually limit the quality of your care.

What about education and qualifications?

I have been told by some business advisers to downplay the importance of education and credentials. I respectfully disagree. I have met many very caring people, but without the education and supervised hours in a specialty, the caring person will not yet be an expert. In any business book or organizational health book, I keep seeing the magic number of 10,000 hours of being in the field of the specialty to become an expert.

Did you know that all 50 states in the USA allow hearing aid dispensers/hearing aid dealers and audiologists to work with the public regarding hearing health? Do you know the difference between hearing aid dealers/dispensers and audiologists? Most people do not. Hearing aid dealers are also called hearing aid dispensers or audioprosthologists in some states. The minimum required education is to have a high school diploma or GED equivalent and pass the state exam to be able to work with hearing aids and people and have years of supervision under a hearing aid dealer or audiologist. Some states require two years of hearing aid sales and supervision under another hearing aid dealer.

Audiologists have an undergraduate degree related to speech and hearing and a minimum of a doctorate of audiology degree. The Au.D., doctorate of audiology is continued after undergraduate school, then three to four years of professional school, 2000 or more supervised clinic hours, nine- to 12-month internship. The exact number of hours depends on the credentialed program, if it is a compressed program that goes year-round or not. Audiologists also need to take the state exam to have a license to provide hearing care to the public. Both groups need continuing education and renewed licensing status annually.

I believe it is important and acceptable to ask your provider about his school and work experience. I encourage people to make sure that they know who is taking care of them. Just because someone “looks” like a doctor and wears a white coat, does not mean he has earned the credentials to be called one.

Finding someone who is a good listener and a good trouble shooter. You and your loved ones deserve the highest level of care. Especially, when it comes to your hearing health. Hearing is the vehicle to connect with others. Connecting with others and feeling connected to others is a direct path to living a full life.

• Longtime Ahwatukee resident Patricia Kao-Hutt, Au.D., earned a doctor of audiology degree in 2012. She owns Aloha Hearing Solutions in Ahwatukee, 15825 S. 46th St., Suite 127. Reach her at (480) 652-0680 or www.alohahearingsolutions.com.

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