An Audiologist is a hearing healthcare professional. A person who is uniquely qualified to assess, diagnose, and treat hearing loss and balance disorders. The requirements for obtaining a license to practice as an Audiologist has changed significantly over the years. Current standards require a minimum of a doctoral degree obtained from an accredited university, completion of a minimum of 2000 hours of patient contact, and achieving a passing score on a licensing examination. The current doctoral degree program is modeled after optometry or pharmacy, where the individual completes a 4-year Bachelor’s degree program and then enters the 4-year clinical doctoral training. After they have received their license, an Audiologist must complete 20 hours of continuing education every 2 years, including 2 hours of ethics training, in order to renew their license to practice.
By virtue of their training, an Audiologist can perform a large variety of testing designed to assess the sensitivity of a person’s hearing, interpret these results, and recommend referrals or treatment including hearing aid fitting, auditory training, or lipreading training. They may also perform an assessment of balance disorders and central auditory processing disorders, perform interoperative monitoring during brain surgery, conduct and coordinate newborn hearing screening, as well as fit and dispense hearing aids, and program bone conduction aids and cochlear implants. While most Audiologists work in some sort of health care setting, they can also be found in private practice, schools, nursing, and independent living facilities, industrial settings, and the military. Some Audiologists prefer to specialize in certain populations such as the military/VA, industrial, pediatric, geriatric; while others handle all age groups.
No matter what population they work with, or what type of work setting, an Audiologist’s primary goal is to help individuals determine if they have a hearing or balance problem, how bad it is, and how best to treat it.