When your teeth ache, you visit a dentist. When your eyesight declines, you visit an optometrist. And when you experience hearing loss, tinnitus, or any other hearing-related issue, you should visit an audiologist. The title comes from the Latin word audire, which means “to hear,” and the suffix –ology, which means “a subject of study or a branch of knowledge.”
What Is an Audiologist?
So what is an audiologist? Otherwise known as a “hearing doctor”, an audiologist is a professional who specializes in the branch of science and medicine concerned with hearing. Using their extensive training and skills, audiologists can evaluate and treat the ears and auditory issues, including hearing loss, balance disorders, and tinnitus. They work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, private practices, and schools, and they care for people of all ages.
Similar professionals include hearing instrument specialists (who recommend and fit hearing devices) and otolaryngologists (who diagnose and treat diseases of the ears, nose, larynx, and throat), also known as Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctors. Although audiologists and ENT doctors assist with some of the same problems, typically audiologists focus on non-surgical correction of hearing loss while ENT doctors focus on surgical fixes for hearing loss. For example, you might visit an ENT if you experienced ear pain caused by head trauma, but you would schedule an appointment with an audiologist if you heard ringing in your ears (i.e., tinnitus) or experienced diminished hearing abilities.
Education & Licensure
Most audiologists earn a doctor of audiology degree (Au.D.), but other doctoral degrees (Ph.D., Sc.D., etc.) are available from accredited universities. Audiology programs typically focus on clinical proficiency and require at least four years of full-time study following the completion of a bachelor’s degree program. Note that some audiology programs require specific prerequisite coursework at the bachelor’s level. Audiologists must possess comprehensive knowledge of the auditory and vestibular (balance) systems to perform their job successfully.
In addition, most states require audiologists to hold a license in order to legally practice. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has broken down licensure requirements state-by-state. Typically, an audiology program prepares the applicant to meet licensure requirements. On top of state licensure requirements, there are also voluntary certifications that can be completed such as a Board Certification in Audiology or a Certificate of Clinical Competency in Audiology. Board certifications are completed through the American Board of Audiology while clinical competency is completed through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
Boards & Associations
In addition to the completion of a graduate or doctoral degree, state licensure, and certifications, audiologists can also opt to affiliate with industry associations. Popular associations for American audiologists include:
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
- American Tinnitus Association (ATA)
- American Academy of Audiology (AAA)
- Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA)
There are also associations available for consumers like:
- American Society for Deaf Children
- American Tinnitus Association
- Hearing Loss Association of America
- National Association of the Deaf
The purpose of these associations is to offer audiology professionals and consumers benefits like education, networking, a sense of community, and volunteer opportunities. In some instances, these associations play a direct role in the creation of industry laws and initiatives.
Audiologists assist people of all ages with hearing-related issues, covering a broad range of conditions and treatments. Sometimes these issues influence the person’s balance as well since the inner ear controls the body’s equilibrium system. Audiologists also evaluate people’s hearing through auditory exams and address any issues revealed by the screening. This is especially important for newborns and children, who may not realize that their hearing is impaired or possess the ability to express their concerns.
Common issues treated by audiologists include the following:
- Hearing loss
- Hyperacusis (sensitivity to sound)
- Cerumen management (ear wax)
- Auditory processing disorder (APD)
- Ménière’s disease
- Balance disorders (B.P.P.V.)
- Single-sided deafness (CROS systems)
To treat the issues listed above, your audiologist must review the specifics of your situation and create a customized treatment plan. Everyone (and every ear) is different, so audiologists’ recommendations for conditions like tinnitus and hearing loss vary dramatically based on the patients’ symptoms, concerns, and requests. To evaluate your level of tinnitus and hyperacusis, take our tinnitus and hyperacusis impact surveys.
Common treatments supplied by audiologists include the following:
- Custom-made hearing devices and earmolds
- Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)
- Sound therapy for hyperacusis
- Lyric extended-wear hearing devices
- CROS and BiCROS systems for single-sided deafness
- Hearing conservation programs
- Made-for-iPhone hearing aids
- Aural rehabilitation training (listening skills)
- Hearing protection (custom earplugs)
- Cerumen management (ear wax removal)
An audiologist can customize nearly all of these treatments to better fit a patient’s specific needs. Through consulting, fitting, and programming, treatments like hearing aids and tinnitus therapy can be made exceptionally efficient and inconspicuous.
Selecting an Audiologist
Choosing the right audiologist can take some time and research. Here are some tips for finding the best fit for you:
- If you’re looking for a knowledgeable, friendly, and skilled audiologist, ask your friends and family members for recommendations first.
- You could also ask your general physician for a referral.
- Check out the audiologists’ experience and reviews. Relying on an audiologist with many years of experience and positive customer testimonials will give you peace of mind.
- Insurance coverage is another factor to consider before choosing an audiologist – many offices can check your benefits prior to planning a visit.
- If you have a serious hearing issue like tinnitus, it might be best for you to choose an audiologist that specializes in this problem to ensure that you receive the best available care. This may require extra research to determine if they have special training or expertise.
- Expect outstanding customer service throughout the process, but especially when communicating with the audiologist or the in-office staff. A great audiologist will love what they do and genuinely care about your well-being.
There are a large number of factors that should be considered in your search for an audiologist, including education, special training, experience, and reputation. Taking a moment to look into these details will ensure that you find the right fit.
Conclusion – What Is An Audiologist?
An Audiologist is a highly-educated and trained medical professional that concentrates on the diagnoses, management, and treatment of hearing and balance problems. They offer a myriad of services and specialties to help with a wide range of hearing-related issues.
If you are experiencing hearing loss, tinnitus, hyperacusis, or another auditory issue, please contact Sound Relief Hearing Center in Highlands Ranch or Mesa, Arizona. We are independently owned, so we always have the patient’s best interests at heart, and our state-of-the-art technology ensures that our patients receive the best treatment available. With our unparalleled excellence in the hearing industry, our dedication to patient satisfaction, and our commitment to helping people control and conquer their hearing issues, you can count on Sound Relief Hearing Center for support and assistance. You can also schedule an appointment to meet with one of our audiologists. We look forward to offering you better hearing today for a healthier tomorrow.