There are several terms you will run into as you do your research:
ENT - Ear, Nose, and Throat Doctor, also known as an Otolaryngologist. Your ears, nose, and throat are all intricately connected and affect each other in numerous ways. This doctor is highly specialized to diagnose and treat abnormal conditions of this system.
AuD - Audiologist - Some are Doctors, having a PhD in Audiology, and some have a Master’s Degree. They are trained specifically in the area of hearing and balance (since balance is controlled in your ears).
HIS - Hearing Instrument Specialist - Trained in the dispensing, fitting, and programming of hearing aids. Typically have a two-year degree. You want someone who has BC-HIS after their name, indicating Board Certified Hearing Instrument Specialist.
You should visit each one in that order, which is exactly the route I took. I visited an ENT who had an AuD in his office. He pretty much looked in my ears, and gave me the okay. You want to see the ENT to make sure you’re not dealing with something horrific like cancer of the ear. He is trained to spot that kind of stuff.
Next I went down the hall to the AuD. She sat me in the soundproof booth and performed the Audiogram. That’s where you put on headphones, and press the little button every time you hear a tone. That’s where we get the numbers you see in our signatures. Be sure you get a copy of your audiogram, that’s vital. You could skip the AuD and go straight to the HIS, who can perform the exact same test, but some people have a little more confidence in the training of the AuD. Your choice.
Now, you could stop here, and buy your aids from the AuD. I myself suffered a little sticker shock and ran away. I’m glad I did. She was a little cold and impersonal, and offered me very few choices. I shopped around and ended up with a fantastic HIS. I’ve saved a little money and, more importantly, found someone who I feel like is a partner in solving my hearing issues. Someone I feel comfortable sitting down and chatting with.
So, ultimately, you have to decide what you are going to do. But some of us here are suggesting you start with the ENT specifically because of the issue you brought up about being able to hear under certain very specific conditions. That comment really worried me. I don’t know what kind of insurance you have, but my visit to the ENT and AuD combined cost me $16.