Imagine the cringe factor associated with taking your Rolls Royce or Ferrari to some cheap garage behind a warehouse in a seedy part of town. Doesn’t it make more sense to take your high-dollar automobile to a factory certified service center? A certified service center has the unique qualifications to provide the proper care for your car, while that seedy garage, well… I use this illustration to provide a simplified explanation of the difference between an audiologist and a hearing aid dispenser. Although there are some similarities, the differences between an audiologist and a common hearing aid dispenser are significant.


Hearing aid dispensers and audiologists can help you select the type and design of various types of instruments and assisted listening devices, and provide you with a fitting service for the device you choose. Both conduct basic hearing tests, and both have the capacity to serve adult patients who require hearing assistance from a hearing instrument.

Level of Care

Some hearing aid dispensers have advanced training in some testing and hearing aid devices, provide excellent fitting and maintenance services, and do a decent job when it comes to aftercare. However, the similarities between them and audiologists end at this point. An audiologist is a doctor with a license to practice their specific type of health care. Audiologists have the capacity and additional training to go beyond conducting a general hearing test to sell you a hearing aid. Doctors of audiology can conduct a broad range of diagnostic audiological evaluations such as:

• hearing sensitivity
• speech understanding
• middle and inner ear function
• auditory nerve function

Like the certified service center used in the illustration above, an audiologist has extensive training and knowledge reaching beyond the expertise and most advanced qualifications of a hearing aid dispenser. A doctor of audiology has an extensive range of treatment options and qualifications available to treat all types of patients, including children.

Unique Qualifications of an Audiologist

Doctors of audiology have a higher level of understanding and expertise specifically related to the physiological function of hearing. Qualifications unique to audiologists for serving our patients include:

• Legal Authorization to Bill Insurance Companies (private, Medicare, Medicaid)
• Cochlear Implants (candidacy examination and programming)
• Ototoxic Monitoring (auditory threat-related treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, others)
• Assessment and Treatment for Balance and Dizziness Disorders
• Capacity to Conduct Auditory Processing Assessments
• Providing Amplification Systems for Classrooms (design, selection, installation, monitoring)
• Aural Rehabilitation Therapy (instrument aided, non-aided, auditory processing disorders)
• Management of Cerumen (ear wax)
• Evaluation and Management of Tinnitus
• Provide Counseling for Patient and Family (diagnosis and treatment)
• Hearing Conservation Programs (development and implementation)
• Education and Prevention of Ototoxic and Vestibulatoxic Substance Abuse
• Research and Development of Evaluation Techniques and Rehabilitation Strategies

These distinctive characteristics are a part of the advanced hearing care of an audiologist and are not available from a hearing aid dispenser. Essentially, while hearing aid dispensers have the capacity to plaster over the problem with a hearing aid, a doctor of audiology seeks to provide you with far-reaching auditory solutions.

In addition to fitting our patients with the right hearing assistance devices, Alabama Hearing Associates meets a broader range of hearing health care needs, including years of after-care, follow-up appointments to evaluate progress, an extensive range of treatment options, and the qualified experience and expertise of a doctor dedicated to all aspects of healthy hearing.

Contact us to learn more about the hearing healthy solutions provided by Alabama Hearing Associates.

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Dr. Susan Sheehy

Dr. Sheehy earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in audiology at the University of Alabama before beginning her career as a clinical audiologist in Huntsville. In 2005, she received her doctorate in audiology from Salus University. Dr. Sheehy is one of a specialized subset of audiologists certified in tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT). By appointment from the governor, she has served as a member and chairperson of the Alabama Board of Examiners in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology.
    Basic Hearing Test

    A basic hearing test begins with an air conduction test. You will be seated in a soundproof booth and single-use, foam earphones will be inserted into your ear canals. The Audiologist will ask you to push a button or raise your hand when you barely hear a series of beeps (tones) presented at various frequencies (pitches) to obtain your air conduction thresholds.

    To determine whether your hearing loss is a conductive (mechanical) loss, sensorineural (permanent) loss or combination of the two, we perform a bone conduction test.  

    For this test, a head band is place on the bone behind one of the ears to obtain your bone conduction thresholds. This process provides a different form of sound transmission using vibration, which bypasses the eardrum and the middle ear bones and directly stimulates the auditory nerve. When you hear the beeps/tones, you will push a button or raise your hand.

    If bone conduction thresholds are better than air conduction thresholds (through the foam inserts), you have a conductive hearing loss. This suggests a problem with the mechanical structures (moving parts) of the ears.

    Conductive hearing loss is often a medically treatable condition for which we will provide you with a referral to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) physician. However, if bone and air conduction thresholds match, it indicates a sensorineural hearing loss (permanent), and the treatment will likely involve hearing aids.



    Comprehensive 5-Year treatment plan with premium technology

    If you want premium “out of this world” technology and the highest level of service and expert support, our All-Inclusive treatment plan is the right investment for you.

    The All-Inclusive treatment plan offers long-term value for your on-the-go lifestyle, providing everything you need to connect with family and friends for years to come.


    • Stellar hearing devices from top manufacturer (rechargeable option available)

    • Wireless accessory included at no charge

    • Comprehensive Annual Visit including hearing assessment, hearing device adjustment, and 19-Point preventative maintenance valutaion

    • Bi-annual hearing aid software update and reprogramming

    • Same day diagnosis and in-office repair during weekdays for devices dropped off before 3:00 p.m.

    • 5-Year full-service repair warranty

    • Unlimited remote hearing aid adjustments

    • 100% moisture removal by Redux and cleaning

    • Hearing aid supplies (stock receivers, batteries, domes and filters)

    • $1000 contribution towards purchase of upgraded technology within 48 months

    • 3-Year replacement warranty for loss or damage (no deductible)

    • Dedicated team of hearing care experts at your service

    • Unlimited teleaudiology appointments

    • Access to our “speed of light” repair specialists