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So you want to become an audiologist

An audiologist is trained to diagnose, treat and monitor auditory disorders and identify and treat balance problems. These medical professionals can dispense hearing aids, map cochlear implants and counsel individuals and families about hearing loss and communication repair strategies. In 2007, the field of audiology began requiring new professionals to obtain the doctor of audiology (AuD) degree. Audiologists already practicing with PhD or master’s degrees were accepted into the new system; however, many practicing professionals have opted to update their credentials over the past few years with specially-designed distance learning programs.

Application and requirements

Becoming an audiologist requires schooling. All new audiologists are required to have a doctor of audiology (AuD) degree. Typically it takes about four years to complete this degree. The majority of students who are admitted to AuD programs have an undergraduate degree in communication sciences and disorders. However, some programs will admit students with other undergraduate majors, as long as the student took pre-requisites such as biology, psychology and statistics.

Applying to an audiology program is much like applying to any other professional degree program - references and essays are needed. Prospective students are also required to achieve at least a minimum score on the GRE, a standardized test of readiness for graduate-level study.

Courses and clinical experience

Audiologists are in a highly professional role. As such, the four-year program provides them with varied classroom, research and learning experiences. Aside from spending time in the classroom, students enrolled in an audiology program spend a great deal of time in clinical settings. Clinical experiences are varied, to give students exposure to all different types of settings, including pediatrics, cochlear implants and balance testing. The final year of training is a clinical externship, during which students work full-time in a clinical setting under the supervision of a qualified professional. Students also must understand research principles and read a great deal of literature to keep up with scientific research. Though they often assist with ongoing research led by their professors, a dissertation is not usually required for graduation.

In clinical training, there are three goals for students in AuD programs:

  1. To master the knowledge required for audiological understanding and practice
  2. To gain extensive experience in various clinical settings
  3. To be exposed to experienced audiologists and gain role modeling skills

Here are just some of the training environments that AuD students are in:

  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Private audiology practices
  • Industrial settings
  • University clinics
  • Local education agencies

Students take classroom courses in a vast range of topics. Here is just a fraction of their knowledge base:

  • Anatomy and physiology of hearing
  • Gross anatomy
  • Epidemiology
  • Statistics and research methods
  • Physics of sound (acoustics)
  • Diseases of the nervous system and ear
  • Audiologic assessment
  • Pediatric audiology
  • Prevention of hearing loss
  • Dispensing of hearing aids
  • Counseling
  • Speechreading and other forms of visual communication.

Post-degree completion

After earning their AuD, new audiologists must be licensed by their individual states, which typically involves a written and/or practical exam. There are other forms of certification, which serve to boost one's prominence and trustworthiness in the field, including the Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) from the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) and board certification from the American Academy of Audiology (AAA).

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