What is an Audiologist and When you Might Need to Go See One

audiologist explaining to patient how the ear works using an ear model

Are you wondering what is an audiologist?

The roles of ear doctors and audiologists are often confused with each other. Although both professionals provide services to individuals with hearing loss, there are significant differences between the two professions.

This article will talk about audiologist meaning, their roles and responsibilities, education and training, audiologist salary and job outlook, and when to consult an audiologist.

What is an Audiologist?

Audiologists are healthcare professionals who prevent, identify, diagnose, and treat hearing and balance disorders. They provide services to people of all ages, from newborns to adults.

Audiologists play a significant role in improving the well-being of individuals with hearing loss.

One in eight people in the United States has hearing loss in both ears, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports.

Audiologists work in a variety of work settings. According to ASHA, the most common employment settings for audiologists include healthcare (hospitals, private clinics), education (schools, universities), and government agencies (public health departments, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force).

What Does an Audiologist Do?

The roles and responsibilities of Audiologists, according to ASHA, are as follows.

Assessment and Identification

Audiologists identify, test, diagnose and manage disorders of hearing and balance. Once the assessment is complete, they will interpret the results to determine the type and severity of hearing loss.

If the underlying cause is medically treatable, the audiologist will refer the patient to appropriate professionals. If the condition is not medically treatable, the audiologist will provide counseling regarding hearing health and the various treatment or management options.

Additionally, they will assess the candidacy for the different amplification devices such as hearing aids and cochlear implants.

Audiologists also play a key role in the early identification of hearing loss in children. Newborn hearing screening has been implemented in hospitals across the United States.

Research indicates that hearing-impaired children who receive intervention services in the first 6 months of life will develop age adequate language skills.

Management and Treatment

Audiologists provide a wide range of treatments, such as selection of hearing aids, otoscopic exams, rehabilitation services, psychological counseling, and more.

Audiologists provide a wide range of audiology treatment services for hearing and balance disorders.

Intervention for auditory disorders include:

  • Evaluation, selection, fitting, and verification of amplification devices and assistive listening devices.
  • Otoscopic examinations, removal of cerumen, ear canal impressions, and dispensing of amplification devices.
  • Rehabilitation services to help manage hearing loss such as speech reading, auditory skill development, and language development.
  • Counseling patients and families on the psychosocial adjustments of hearing loss.

Intervention for balance disorders include:

  • Assessment of vestibular system
  • Non-medical management of tinnitus and other vestibular disorders
  • Referral to appropriate professionals if medical management is required

Prevention and Education

Audiologists conduct a wide range of hearing screening and hearing conservation programs to educate the public about the following.

  • Prevention of hearing loss
  • Importance of early identification and intervention
  • Effects of noise exposure on hearing
  • Impact of hearing loss on quality of life
  • Amplification devices and Assistive listening devices

When to Consult an Audiologist

You should consult an audiologist if you suspect that you have hearing loss.

Below mentioned are the early signs of hearing loss.

  • Frequently requesting people to repeat what they said
  • Difficulty understanding speech in presence of background noise
  • Difficulty understanding speech in meetings or public events
  • Difficulty understanding people with a “low voice”
  • Tinnitus or “ringing sound” in one or both ears, even when no external sound is present
  • Able to hear television only at loud volume
  • Dizziness or balance problems
  • Difficulty identifying children’s voice

Please note that you need to consult a medical doctor immediately if you experience severe symptoms such as chest pain, blurred vision, sudden hearing loss, and slurred speech.

Difference Between Ear Doctor and Audiologist

An ear doctor is known as Otolaryngologist or ENT. An otolaryngologist is a medical doctor who diagnoses and treats diseases of the ear, nose, and throat.

Audiologists and ENTs (Otolaryngologists) closely work with each other as they play a significant role in treating individuals with hearing loss.

Audiologists are healthcare professionals who prevent, identify, assess, and treat hearing and balance disorders. They assist hearing-impaired people manage their auditory dysfunction by prescribing hearing aids and other amplification devices.

If an individual with a hearing loss has an underlying cause that can be medically treated, the audiologist will refer to appropriate professionals, including an ENT.

Audiologists and ENTs closely work with each other as they play a significant role in treating individuals with hearing loss.

Audiologist Education and Training

Two degrees are mandatory to become an audiologist. The first one is a bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders or any other related field. The second is a Doctor of Audiology (AuD) degree.

Since both bachelor’s degree and the doctorate degree in Audiology take 4 years each to complete, aspiring audiologists have to undergo 8 years of education in total. This period should also cover clinical experience that meets CAA standards to become a certified audiologist.

Audiology Salary and Job Outlook

According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020 reports, the annual average pay of an audiologist is $81,030 per year and $38.95 per hour.

This can vary depending on the experience, geographical location, and work settings. Some states offer higher pay to audiologists than others. North Dakota offers the highest pay, followed by California and Maryland, according to BLS.

BLS also reported that the employment rate for audiologists is much higher than other occupations, a nearly 16% increase in 2030 than in 2020.

Conclusion

Audiologists play a critical role in the lives of hearing-impaired individuals. They help patients manage their auditory disorder, communicate better, improve family relationships, social life, and increase overall well-being.

Citations

https://www.audiologist.org/patients/what-is-an-audiologist 

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/hearing-loss/what-is-an-audiologist 

https://www.audiology.org/consumers-and-patients/what-is-an-audiologist/

https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-an-audiologist

https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/audiologists.htm 

https://www.asha.org/students/audiologist-roles-and-responsibilities/ 

https://www.audiology.org/practice-resources/practice-guidelines-and-standards/scope-of-practice/