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What is a Hearing Aid Specialist/Hearing Instrument Practitioner?

Both Hearing Aid Specialists and Hearing Instrument Practitioners are qualified healthcare professionals that specialize in evaluating hearing health and providing solutions, including hearing aids, to address hearing loss.

Hearing Aid Specialist is the commonly used term in the United States; but they may also be referred to as Hearing Instrument Specialists, Hearing Aid Dispensers, or Hearing Aid Dealers/Fitters. In Canada, the common term is Hearing Instrument Practitioner, but they may also be referred to as Hearing Aid Practitioners.

Upon conducting hearing tests, they will determine your level of hearing loss and whether hearing aids may be the best care option, or another course of action may be needed. In the latter case, they may have other options or refer you to a physician for further evaluation.

If hearing aids are appropriate, your provider will work with you to determine the right technology for you and a follow-up plan that will include strategies for success, making adjustments as you acclimate to your new hearing devices, and providing regular hearing aid checks to ensure they are clean and working properly.

Hearing Aid Specialists and Hearing Instrument Practitioners devote their time to learning about your day-to-day environment, hearing challenges, and hearing profile to determine a plan for improving your communication with friends, family, colleagues, doctors, and other important people in your life. They are also typically more accessible in suburban and rural areas than other hearing care providers, and may provide services at satellite/community-based offices, assisted living facilities, and/or even in your home – bringing care closer to you where you need it.

What Makes a Hearing Aid Specialist/Hearing Instrument Practitioner Qualified to Address Hearing Health?

When assessing whether a professional is qualified, look for evidence that they hold a license/registration by their state or province. To attain/maintain licensure/registration, these hearing healthcare professionals have typically completed a hands-on apprenticeship program or hold an associate degree in hearing aid sciences, and generally must pass written and practical (hands-on) examinations to assure competency and safe practices. To maintain their license/registration, they are typically required to complete continuing education hours. In the US, they are recognized by the Department of Labor, Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Policy and Management, state Medicaid programs, and others to deliver hearing healthcare services to the public. In Canada, they work with governmental programs including Veterans Affairs, to provide covered services. They also work with other healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses, and audiologists, to deliver integrated care.

You can also look for additional designations that display their commitment to advanced practice:

BC-HIS/Board Certified in Hearing Instrument Sciences

This designation, awarded by the National Board for Certification in Hearing Instrument Sciences (NBC-HIS), is granted to those with at least two years of independent practice who have passed the National Competency Examination, complete 24 hours of continuing education every three years, and abide by the NBC-HIS Code of Ethics. The BC-HIS designation is maintained by certificants through a recertification process every three years.

Tinnitus Care Provider Holding a Certificate from the International Hearing Society

This designation, awarded by the International Hearing Society (IHS), is granted to licensed healthcare professionals who have completed the IHS Tinnitus Care Provider Course, including passage of a comprehensive examination.

ACA/American Conference of Audioprosthology

This designation, previously awarded by the International Hearing Society (IHS), was granted to those who successfully completed the American Conference of Audioprosthology course. They may use the term Audioprosthologist in communications and marketing as permitted by their local jurisdiction.

What Other Services Do Hearing Aid Specialists/Hearing Instrument Practitioners Provide?

Through their education, training, and licensure, a Hearing Aid Specialist or Hearing Instrument Practitioner may:

  • administer hearing evaluations and hearing screenings
  • screen for conditions indicating the need for physician intervention
  • identify common types of hearing loss
  • recommend, order the use of, dispense, and adjust hearing aids
  • select the appropriate hearing aid technology
  • perform tests to confirm the fit and function of hearing aids
  • provide counseling to patients and their families to optimize success with hearing aids and communication
  • take ear impressions
  • repair and troubleshoot hearing aids
  • perform earwax removal (may be limited depending on state and provincial regulation)
  • perform tinnitus management (may be limited depending on state and provincial regulation)

Other Hearing Healthcare Providers

Otolaryngologists (also known as ENT physicians) and audiologists are also valued members of the hearing healthcare team, and perform hearing examinations and may provide hearing aid services in their offices, in addition to providing other services. Both are also licensed by their states/jurisdictions and must maintain continuing education. Many audiologists are IHS members and can also be found in our Find a Provider directory.

Ask a Hearing Professional


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Why should I see a hearing care provider for my hearing health?

“...Hearing loss usually happens over time and regular visits to the hearing healthcare specialist can catch hearing loss early...” 

– Annette Cross, BC-HIS
Provincial Hearing in Bridgewater, NC, Canada


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What about Over-The-Counter hearing aids? Is hearing loss really different for each person?

“Hearing aid specialists can help someone who is considering over-the-counter hearing aids - first of all - by inspecting the ears and making sure there's nothing medical that needs to be addressed before hearing loss needs to be addressed...No two ears are the same...” 

– Todd Beyer, ACA, BC-HIS
The Hearing House, LLC. in Marshfield, WI, USA


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What's the difference between Over-The-Counter and hearing aids from a hearing aid office?

“Over-the-Counter hearing aids are percieved as a self-fit hearing device, so someone can go into a pharmacy or retail store, pick out a device and go home with it and fit it to themself - with no professional integration at all...The prescriptionally fit hearing aid is what we do at our hearing aid offices through a licensed professional and those types of devices are different. Your hearing is tested, you're fit with a device, they're programmed, and then you have after care adjustments with appointments with a licened professional...” 

– Michael Andreozzi, BC-HIS
Beltone New England in Warwick, RI, USA