An audiologist is a trained healthcare professional who evaluates, diagnoses, and treats hearing loss in adults and children. Audiologists thoroughly evaluate hearing and diagnose hearing loss and balance disorders in people of any age. Audiologists are also able to prescribe, fit, and dispense hearing aids based on a patient’s hearing loss and hearing needs.
Audiologists provide hearing rehabilitation training, auditory training, and listening skills improvement. They can also asses and treat adults and children with central auditory processing disorders. Audiologists help with hearing loss, hearing aids and assistive technology, dizziness and balance disorders, hearing screenings and testing, noise and hearing loss prevention, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and cerumen (earwax) removal.
Audiologists work in a variety of settings. You can find an audiologist at:
- Physicians’ offices
- Private practices
- ENT practices
- Colleges and universities
- Rehabilitation centers
What Kind of Education Do Audiologists Need?
Audiologists must be state licensed or registered in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The first step to becoming an audiologist is to hold a bachelor’s degree. Although no particular major is necessary, graduate programs require courses in physics, math, anatomy and physiology. After the bachelor’s degree is completed, then they must earn a doctoral degree (Ph.D. or Au.D.) in order to be eligible for national certification. Audiologists who hold a master’s degree can currently practice in the field, however, since 2012 audiologists have had to earn a doctoral degree to be nationally certified.
Training for audiology begins at the graduate level. It is important for future audiologists to enroll in a doctoral program at a university that is accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). The doctoral program typically takes 4 years to complete, with an additional 1-2 years to complete the research component. Therefore, audiologists are generally in school for an additional 5-6 years after their undergraduate degree.
In order to practice audiology in the United States, audiologists must be ASHA certified. To become certified, candidates must complete a minimum of 1,820 hours of supervised clinical practice. After they have become certified, they must then obtain a Hearing Aid Dispenser License in the state they are practicing in so they can dispense hearing aids.
What Does Audiology Include?
Audiology encompasses disorders of the auditory and balance systems. Audiologists specialize in the diagnosis of hearing and balance problems, rehabilitation of people with hearing and balance disorders, and preventing hearing loss. In addition, audiologists are able to perform hearing evaluations, counsel patients, program and fit hearing aids, provide cochlear implant counseling, and treat tinnitus.
Because of the extensive training audiologists must receive to practice in the United States, they are well equipped to diagnose and treat a wide range of hearing related disorders. Specialties can change depending on the audiologist and what their focus is. Some specialize in tinnitus management, the vestibular system, hearing aid fitting, or the general treatment of hearing loss.
Hearing is not only connected to our ears, but to our brain and overall health as well. Audiologists can determine the cause of your hearing loss and treat it to avoid any other health conditions that are related to hearing loss, such as dementia or balance disorders. Hearing loss can also be the result of an underlying health condition such as heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure. Audiologists are trained to evaluate your hearing and can refer you to a medical professional if your hearing loss is connected to another serious condition.