An audiologist is a professional who diagnoses, treats, and manages individuals with hearing loss or balance problems. Audiologists have received a master's or doctoral degree from an accredited university graduate program. Their academic and clinical training provides the foundation for patient management from birth through adulthood. Audiologists determine appropriate patient treatment of hearing and balance problems by combining a complete history with a variety of specialized auditory and vestibular assessments. Based upon the diagnosis, the audiologist presents a variety of treatment options to patients with hearing impairment or balance problems. Audiologists dispense and fit hearing aids as part of a comprehensive habilitative program. Audiologists may be found working in medical centers and hospitals, private practice settings, schools, government health facilities and agencies, as well as colleges and universities. As a primary hearing health provider, audiologists refer patients to physicians when the hearing or balance problem requires medical or surgical evaluation or treatment.
Where do audiologists work?
Audiologists work in private practice offices, hospitals and medical centers, clinics, public and private schools, universities, rehabilitation or speech and hearing centers, health maintenance organizations and nursing homes. Audiologists work closely with government agencies, practicing physicians and hearing aid manufacturers. Audiologists conduct clinical activities with patients, are involved in hearing research, dispense hearing aids and assistive listening devices and teach at universities and medical schools.
Why should someone with hearing loss be evaluated by an audiologist?
Audiologists hold master's or doctoral degrees from accredited universities with special training in the prevention, identification, assessment and non-medical treatment of hearing disorders. Audiologists are required to complete a full-time internship and pass a demanding national competency examination. By virtue of their graduate education, professional certification and licensure, audiologists are the most qualified professionals to perform hearing tests, refer patients for medical treatment and provide hearing rehabilitation services.
What do audiologists do?
Audiologists use specialized equipment to obtain accurate results about hearing loss. These tests are typically conducted in sound-treated rooms with calibrated equipment. The audiologist is trained to inspect the eardrum with an otoscope, perform limited ear wax removal, conduct diagnostic audiologic tests, and check for medically-related hearing problems.
Hearing loss is caused by medical problems about 10% of the time. Audiologists are educated to recognize these medical problems and refer patients to ear, nose and throat physicians (known as otolaryngologists). Most persons with hearing impairment can benefit from the use of hearing aids, and audiologists are knowledgeable about the latest applications of hearing aid technology.
Hearing Services for Infants & Children
Good hearing is essential to the social and intellectual development of infants and young children. Audiologists test hearing and identify hearing loss in children of any age. This includes newborn and infant hearing screening and diagnostic hearing tests with young children. Audiologists provide hearing therapy and fit hearing aids on babies and young children with hearing loss.
Services for School Children
Audiologists provide a full range of hearing and rehabilitative hearing services in private and public schools for students in all grades. Such services are essential to the development of speech, language and learning skills in children with hearing problems.
Hearing Services & Counseling
Audiologists are vitally concerned that every person, regardless of age, benefit from good hearing. Audiologists provide individual counseling to help those with hearing loss function more effectively in social, educational and occupational environments. It is a fact of life that we lose hearing acuity, as we grow older, and that hearing problems are commonly associated with the elderly. Audiologists are committed to helping senior citizens to hear better.
Hearing Aids & Assistive Listening Devices
Audiologists provide complete hearing aid services to clients with hearing problems. Audiologists are also experts with assistive listening equipment and personal alerting devices. Audiologists provide education and training so that persons with hearing impairment can benefit from amplification and communication devices.
Audiologists dispense the majority of hearing aids in the United States. Audiologists use the most advanced computerized procedures to individualize the fitting of hearing aids. Hearing aid options are thoroughly discussed with each potential user based on the results of a complete hearing aid test battery and the individual needs of each patient. Follow-up care and hearing aid accessories are routinely available from dispensing audiologists.
Hearing Conservation Programs
Prolonged exposure to loud noise causes permanent hearing loss. Because audiologists are concerned with the prevention of hearing loss, they are often involved in implementing programs to protect the hearing of individuals who are exposed to noisy industrial and recreational situations.
Audiologists engage in a wide variety of research activities to develop new hearing assessment techniques and new rehabilitative technologies, particularly in the area of hearing aids. Research reports of audiologists can be found in the professional literature of medical and scientific journals. Audiologists write textbooks on hearing evaluation, hearing aids and the management of people with hearing loss. Audiologists help develop professional standards and are represented on the boards of national and government agencies.
More than 28 million Americans have some type of hearing problem. Hearing difficulties are often unrecognized by the person involved. Children and teenagers seldom complain about the symptoms of hearing loss, and adults may lose their hearing so gradually they do not realize it is happening. The first step in treatment of a hearing problem is a hearing evaluation by an audiologist.