The transition from the last year to the next tends to give us pause. Most of us take a moment to turn our thoughts inward and reflect on how we would like to see our lives change and improve during the coming year. For some, that means finally acknowledging hearing loss and seeking information and help. If you are reading this, chances are you are considering walking just such a path. Good for you!

Over the next five weeks, each blog post will highlight a step on the journey to better hearing. As you are probably discovering, this is not a straightforward affair, and there is a lot to learn and understand. Before you begin, the most important thing you can do for yourself is to choose an excellent hearing care provider.

The most highly trained hearing professional is an audiologist. Audiologists have at least a master’s degree, but most have a doctorate in the field of hearing sciences. An audiologist is uniquely trained to identify all types of hearing loss and identify, recommend, prepare, or implement any necessary treatment or further evaluations by other professionals.

Finding an excellent audiologist is relatively easy. First, visit www.hearingloss.com or www.audiologist.org to find audiologists in your area. Once you have a list, start looking at their websites. Read their bios, check out their blogs, take a look at their testimonials. Narrow your list down to a couple of choices, and start asking friends and family — but don’t ask about their hearing aids. Hearing aids are small potatoes compared to the character, kindness, availability, and talent of the audiologist. If you find the right audiologist, you will be partners for years to come, so it is critical you like each other and can have frank and open conversations about your needs and expectations.

An excellent audiologist has solid relationships with many, if not most, major hearing aid manufacturers, has access to virtually any hearing aid technology, and will find something that suits your hearing loss and budget. At this stage, don’t look at price tags; look for excellent care.