Currently, there are about 16,000 licensed audiologists in the United States. Audiology is a growing field that is also very dynamic. Audiologists, generally speaking, are responsible for helping people with hearing issues and other conditions related to the ear.
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) predicts that over the next 30 years, the public demand for audiologists will increase by about 60 percent. This figure is significantly higher than the expected increase in the population as a whole. It is also higher than many other specialties within the medical field.
With the market for audiologists expected to increase over the next few decades, many people are considering the possibility of pursuing a career in audiology. In this article, we will discuss the most important things for you to know about the field of audiology. By understanding everything that this exciting career path entails, you will be able to decide whether pursuing a career in audiology is right for you.
What is an audiologist?
Audiologists, by definition, are “the primary health-care professionals who evaluate, diagnose, treat, and manage hearing loss and balance disorders in adults and children.”
Audiologists are trained to address a wide range of hearing issues including tinnitus, age-related hearing loss, certain ear infections, hyperacusis, and many others. Audiologists work in a wide variety of different settings, including hearing centers, at-home care, alongside ENTs, and many others.
To be successful, audiologists will need to familiarize themselves with the common causes of hearing loss and the best treatments that correspond with each condition. New audiology treatments are constantly being developed and updated, which is why it will be crucial for audiologists of all settings to actively continue their education.
What does an audiologist do?
The discipline of audiology is quite broad and incorporates a wide range of skills and knowledge sets. One of the most important things an audiologist will need to know how to do is administer a complete hearing test. During a typical hearing test, a patient’s ability to hear different volumes, different tones, and other types of sounds will all be examined. From there, the audiologist will be able to “grade” their hearing capacity and, with additional information, diagnose whatever hearing conditions are present.
Audiologists will also need to know how to prescribe, fit, and assist with hearing aids and cochlear implants. As their patient’s age, their ability to hear will change; remarkable audiologists are the ones able to make diagnostic and prescriptive changes that patients need. Furthermore, an audiologist may also be responsible for conducting sound therapy (including Tinnitus Retraining Therapy). Sound therapy is used to address a variety of hearing issues, such as tinnitus, and can train patients to hear in an entirely different way.
Audiologists will need to know how to work as a team, especially at larger hearing centers. They will also need to know how to work with other doctors, such as otolaryngologists (ENTs) and general physicians. Audiology, as a whole, requires a strong understanding of hearing science and along with very strong communication skills. In some cases, knowing sign language can be a major advantage as well.
What type of education/training is required to become an audiologist?
As an undergraduate, an audiologist can study in almost any field. However, scientific fields, such as biology, chemistry, and pre-medicine are usually recommended.
Specializing in communication sciences can also be quite beneficial. Upon the completion of an undergraduate degree, an audiologist will then need to become a Doctor of Audiology (AuD). This degree usually takes four years.
Currently, there are about 75 accredited programs where an individual can earn an AuD (in the United States). From there, an audiologist will usually engage in a training/preparation program at a medical clinic or hearing center.
What are some of the different specializations within audiology?
Many audiologists, especially those running full-service hearing clinics, will offer a “full service” approach to audiology. These audiologists will usually treat all types of patients and will only refer to specialists as needed. However, as you might expect, there are also many specialists within the field of audiology.
These specialists include:
- Tinnitus-Focused Audiologists: these individuals specialize in treating tinnitus, a hearing symptom that affects about 20 percent of American adults. Tinnitus is characterized by ongoing ringing, buzzing, hissing, or other phantom sounds in the ears.
- Pediatric Audiologists: will need to be familiar with general audiology but will specifically focus on treating children.
- Hearing Aid Specialists: these individuals work with hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other common hearing devices.
- Sensorineural Audiologists: will focus on hearing conditions caused by problems in the inner ear, rather than problems in the middle or outer ear.
By specializing and focusing on a specific type of audiology, these individuals can offer advanced help, when needed.
What are the best job options for an audiologist?
Audiology is a rapidly growing field with plenty of different job opportunities. As the nation increases in population and also increases in average age, the number of opportunities for audiologists can be expected to increase.
Many audiologists will choose to work directly at a hearing center. These centers provide a range of treatments, including tinnitus treatment, hearing tests, and assistance with hearing aids. While the best hearing centers are usually independently owned, some hearing centers are owned by hearing aid manufacturers.
Other opportunities for audiologists include working at a private practice, working at a public clinic, working at schools, and working at the veteran’s administration (VA) hospital. Individuals below the age of 50 should get their hearing tested every 5-10 years, while individuals above the age of 50 should get their hearing tested every three years (or even more, if they have tinnitus or other audiologic symptoms). Because the need for hearing testing and assistance is so common, audiologists can be expected to remain in demand.
Conclusion – Becoming an Audiologist
Audiologists are responsible for helping people of all kinds hear better. Audiologists will need to be familiar with common hearing issues, as well as the solutions needed to treat these issues. Audiologists will also need a degree in audiology, good communication skills, and a desire to help others. If all of these things sound appealing to you, then you may want to consider pursuing a career in the rapidly growing field of audiology.
If you or a loved one is suffering from symptoms of tinnitus, hearing loss, or other hearing issues, schedule an appointment with the audiologists at Sound Relief. Sound Relief Hearing Center has 8 locations in Colorado and Arizona