Audiology: America's best career
Have you ever wondered what is the best career in America? According to Time Magazine, it may well be one you've never thought much about. In their 2015 Answers Issue, the magazine compared 40 different occupations and chose audiology as the best career in America based on data from Careercast.com and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And when it came to attributes like expected growth, stress level and median salary, audiology checked all of the right boxes.
October is Audiology Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising public awareness of different aspects of audiology and its role in diagnosing, treating and preventing hearing loss. Here's a look at audiology as a profession, the extensive training required and the different roles of these dedicated professionals.
A growing field
When it comes to growth, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says you can expect lots of job opportunities within the field of audiology, to the tune of an anticipated 34 percent increase in jobs by the year 2022. That makes audiology one of the fastest growing professions in the U.S. In addition, the median salary in 2013 was a comfortable $69,720; that salary, combined with relatively low job stress and high levels of job satisfaction, is inspiring more young people to consider audiology as a profession.
The increasing numbers of those entering the field of audiology couldn’t be more timely. Our population is aging; advances in medical care and awareness have increased average life expectancy by 5 years just since the year 2000, according to the World Health Organization. And the number of those over age 65 is expected to double by the year 2050, which will in turn increase the numbers of those with hearing loss, especially related to age and noise exposure.
Another factor to consider is the increasing number of young people using earbuds, especially those who use them at unsafe levels. An estimated 1.1 billion young people are at risk of hearing loss as a result of not only personal listening devices, but excessively loud music at gyms, concerts and clubs, says the World Heath Organization. The bottom line is there will be a lot more people with hearing loss in the future, and they are eventually going to need the services of an audiologist.
Many people think of audiologists as the people who evaluate and treat older people with hearing loss and fit them with hearing aids. While that is true, the field of audiology is a complex and varied one that extends way beyond just treating the elderly. Audiologists are educated and highly trained healthcare professionals who have skills to evaluate the hearing of people of all ages, from newborn infants on up. They can perform a wide variety of tests to assess hearing, balance and other auditory disorders. Audiologists can then dispense hearing aids, assist in hearing rehabilitation, offer tinnitus therapy and refer patients to physicians if medical treatment or surgical intervention is necessary.
Audiologists not only enjoy a wide range of roles, but also work settings. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 47 percent are employed in nonresidential health care facilities such as speech-hearing clinics or doctors’ offices, 25 percent work in hospitals and about 1 percent are employed in residential health care facilities such as rehabilitation centers or nursing homes. Some clinicians who also have strong business acumen can run their own successful private practices providing hearing diagnostics, counseling, hearing aid fitting, vestibular and balance services and more.
In addition to health care settings, you will also find audiologists in elementary and high schools and at colleges and universities. In these settings, audiologists assess and treat hearing and other auditory disorders and manage the educational needs of students with hearing loss.
Audiologists can be in educational roles or conduct research, in large corporations or industry implementing hearing conservation programs or in government agencies on the local, state and federal level. All branches of the armed forces employ audiologists as research scientists and some who have direct responsibility for patient care.
Audiologists entering the field have some rigorous education requirements ahead of them. First, a bachelor’s degree in any field must be obtained and then most students enter the required four-year graduate audiology program to earn the clinical doctoral degree (Au.D.). The academic program evolves into time spent in clinical practicum working with experienced audiologists toward the end. Certain audiology programs allow for specialization in a particular area, such as pediatrics or cochlear implants. Some audiologists who prefer to work in research rather than in the clinic may opt for a research degree (Ph.D.) in their desired area of concentration.
Helping improve patients' hearing can be uniquely rewarding, and the process can be life-changing for both patient and professional.
Coursework for the Au.D. can include the following areas of study:
- Pediatric and geriatric audiology
- Deaf education
- Auditory, vestibular and neuroanatomy
- Auditory and vestibular pathologies
- Hearing aids & assistive listening devices
- Medical and surgical treatment of hearing and balance disorders
- Cochlear implants
- Business and practice development
In addition to completing the coursework, all states require licensing in order to practice audiology. Once in practice, audiologists must keep their licenses current through continuing education for the duration of their career.
Although the profession of audiology offers many different directions to choose from in terms of career options and specialization, they all ultimately have the same goal: to improve hearing health of the community around them. If you are looking for a satisfying profession where you can make a difference and help improve peoples’ lives, consider audiology.
Audiologists are one type of hearing healthcare professional that can help you with your hearing and balance concerns. So, if you have hearing loss or someone you love is affected, don't delay. Use our extensive directory to find a professional near you.