Audiologist’s Husband Rant

Rebecca L. Berger, AuD (Dr. Becky)
Doctor of Audiology

Just felt like venting a bit on Becky’s behalf. Becky has always loved helping people with their hearing. Her initial degree was in Deaf Education with a minor in Audiology from Ball State University. After several years of teaching, she found that it wasn’t right for her. She loved helping the children, but the administration and bureaucracy was too much. At that point we were living in Georgia. (Did you know that most teachers prepare a lesson plan for their class, while teachers of special needs students, such as deaf students, are required to fill out IEP‘s for each individual student?) We discussed it and she ended up quitting teaching and going to the University of Georgia and getting a Masters Degree in Audiology. Shortly after that we moved back to Indiana and she began practicing Audiology with a group of Doctors. While working with them, she went back to school again, obtaining her Doctorate in Audiology. She studied and understands the theory behind hearing aid technology and the anatomical parts of the ear, how they interact with the brain and how they all are affected by hearing loss.

With all Becky’s education came additional responsibility. As a Doctor of Audiology, she is under different regulations than hearing aid dispensers. She is governed by HIPAA regulations, Medicaid & Medicare regulations and other requirements; things dispensers don’t have to follow.( To be a hearing aid dispenser, there is a test you must pass with the State, but the minimum education is a GED, not a degree, let alone a Doctorate degree.)

The Doctors Becky worked for retired and she decided to go on her own. That was in 2015 when she started Berger Audiology. Less money, but more autonomy and more time to help patients. She invested in the latest technology. She is now the only full time Audiologist in Marshall County. She operates a satellite office in Winamac. But she struggles with the competition. She wrote a 2019 blog post about it here.

Since that time, things have progressively gotten worse. The government has been slowly chipping away at what differentiates an Audiology from a dispenser. On top of that, they are pushing a trend towards Over-The-Counter (OTC) hearing aide sales or even worse, over the internet. You’ve probably seen the ads by Lively which advertise a telephone consultation with an audiologist or worse, My Power Ear, which cites “no need to see an Audiologist” as a positive selling point. She’s seen patients that have bought hearing aids from big box stores, having been sold that they were getting “the latest technology”. In some cases that has turned out to be a generation or two old. Honestly she’s a bit depressed and upset every time one of those ads.

We’re all thrilled with the convenience of the internet and the ability to buy nearly anything you want from Amazon. But is this what we want for healthcare providers? Telemedicine may work for some things like getting a prescription refilled, but does it really replace hands on care? Or in the case of Becky, an Audiologist, how is a phone conversation prescribing a hearing aid equal to her, a trained professional, doing a complete physical examination and doing a hearing test in a calibrated sound booth, using the latest technology? Can they look in your ear an determine that your hearing loss is actually due to wax? Or that the type of hearing loss indicates that you need to see an ENT because there’s the potential for serious issues where hearing loss is just a symptom? Food for thought… or just my rant…

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