What is an audiologist?

Contributed by Mandy Mroz, AuD, President, Healthy Hearing

An audiologist is a type of hearing healthcare professional. They're trained to diagnose, treat and monitor hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance problems.

What do audiologists do?

Audiologists help diagnose and treat hearing loss. Audiologists test hearing ability, recommend treatment for hearing loss, dispense and fit hearing aids, map cochlear and bone-anchored hearing implants and counsel people and families about hearing loss, tinnitus and communication repair strategies. They work in a wide variety of settings, from private hearing clinics to major research hospitals. Pediatric audiologists work with infants and kids and often collaborate with with speech pathologists, early intervention specialists and otolaryngologists.

According to the American Academy of Audiology, audiologists are trained to perform a wide variety of tasks, including but not limited to:

  • diagnosing and treating hearing loss, tinnitus and balance disorders
  • providing comprehensive hearing tests
  • dispensing hearing aids
  • designing and implementing auditory rehabilitation and related communication programs
  • assisting in the monitoring of cochlear implants and bone-anchored hearing systems

What kind of training do audiologists have?

All new audiologists are required to have a doctor of audiology (AuD) degree. Typically it takes four years to complete this post-graduate degree. The majority of students who are admitted to AuD programs have an undergraduate degree in communication sciences and disorders. However, some programs will admit students with other undergraduate majors, as long as the student took pre-requisites such as biology, psychology and statistics.

Licensure and certification

After earning their AuD, new audiologists must be licensed by their individual states, which typically involves a written and/or practical exam. There are other forms of certification, which serve to boost one's prominence and trustworthiness in the field, including the Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) from the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) and board certification from the American Academy of Audiology (AAA).

Typical salaries for audiologists

A 2018 survey of 1,615 audiologists in the U.S. found that the median salary was $83,843. The survey did not include audiologists who work in primary and secondary school settings. The more comprehensive U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated the 2019 median pay of audiologists to be $77,600.

Audiology educational requirements

Audiologists are in a highly professional role. As such, the typical four-year program provides them with varied classroom, research and learning experiences. Aside from spending time in the classroom, students enrolled in an audiology program also get experience in real-world clinical settings. Clinical experiences are varied, to give students exposure to all different types of settings, including pediatrics, cochlear implants and balance testing. The final year of training is a clinical externship, during which students work full-time in a clinical setting under the supervision of a qualified professional. Students also must understand research principles and read a great deal of literature to keep up with scientific research. Though they are often required to conduct or plan a detailed research project, they are not usually required to produce a dissertation.

Students take classroom courses in a vast range of topics. Here is just a fraction of their knowledge base:

  • Anatomy and physiology of hearing
  • Gross anatomy
  • Epidemiology
  • Statistics and research methods
  • Physics of sound (acoustics)
  • Diseases of the nervous system and ear
  • Audiologic assessment
  • Pediatric audiology
  • Prevention of hearing loss
  • Dispensing of hearing aids
  • Counseling
  • Speechreading and other forms of visual communication.

What is the difference between an audiologist and an ENT?

Ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists are medical doctors (MDs) who attended medical school and specialized in otolaryngology. They perform a wide variety of procedures and treatments, and can diagnose disorders of the ear, nose, throat and lower skull areas. Audiologists often work in ENT offices, administering hearing tests and dispensing hearing aids.

If you need an audiologist

If you're having problems with your hearing, an audiologist can help. Healthy Hearing's online directory can help you locate an audiologist near you.

Reprinted with permission. Copyright Healthy Hearing (www.healthyhearing.com). Original article: https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/51578-So-you-want-to-become-an-audiologist

Audiologists are experts in hearing care and hearing loss. They work in a wide variety of settings, from clinics to hospitals to private hearing aid practices.