What Is An Audiologist?

Audiologists are experts in the non-medical management of the auditory and balance systems. They specialize in the study of:

    • Normal and impaired hearing.
    • Prevention of¬†hearing loss.
    • Identification and assessment¬†of hearing and balance problems.
    • Rehabilitation of persons with hearing and balance disorders.

In addition, audiologists may:

  • Prepare future professionals in colleges and universities.
  • Manage agencies, clinics or private practices.
  • Engage in research to enhance knowledge about normal hearing, and the evaluation and treatment of hearing disorders.
  • Design hearing instruments and testing equipment.

 

Work Sites

Audiologists provide services and work in many different types of facilities:

  • Public and private schools
  • Hospitals
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Residential health facilities
  • Community clinics
  • Colleges and universities
  • Private practice offices
  • Health departments
  • State and federal government agencies
  • Industry with hearing conservation programs
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Community hearing and speech centers
  • Physicians offices
  • Research laboratoriesIn the areas of industrial audiology, positions are available for audiologists to plan and execute programs of hearing conservation for workers. Audiologists frequently work with other medical specialists, speech-language pathologists, educators, engineers, scientists, and allied health professionals and technicians.

 

Entry Requirements

To enter this career,one must have the ability to relate to patients/clients and their families/care givers about the diagnosis of disability and audiologic rehabilitation plans; explain technology developments and devices that assist children and adults with hearing loss. Audiologists should be able to effectively communicate diagnostic test results, interpretation, and proposed treatment in a manner easily understood by their clients and professionals.They must be able to approach problems objectively and provide support to clients and their families. A client’ s progress may be slow, so patience, compassion and good listening skills are necessary.

During high school, prospective audiologists should consider a program with courses in biology, physics, mathematics, and psychology. On the undergraduate level, a strong liberal arts focus is recommended, with course work in linguistics, phonetics, psychology, speech and hearing, and/or the biological and physical sciences. A program of study in audiology is not available at the undergraduate level. Typically, students obtain an undergraduate degree in communication sciences which provides introductory course work in audiology. About 120 colleges and universities offer graduate programs in audiology in the United States. Course work includes anatomy and physiology, basic science, math, auditory, balance and normal and abnormal communication development. Those with a graduate degree are required by ASHA to obtain the ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC). To earn the CCC, a person must have a graduate degree and 375 hours of supervised clinical experience, complete a 36-week postgraduate clinical fellowship and pass a written examination. In most states, speech-language pathologists and audiologists also must comply with state regulatory (licensure) standards to practice and/or have state education certification. The requirements are very similar or identical to ASHA’s CCC requirements.
 

Working Conditions

Audiologists typically work in clinical service delivery or educational settings such as, hospitals, residential health facilities, clinics, hearing and speech centers, private practice offices, schools, physician offices, universities and industries with hearing conservation programs. The job does not require physical labor, but does require the ability to relate to patients/clients and their families/care givers about the diagnosis of disability and audiologic rehabilitation treatment plans; explain technology development and devices that assist children and adults with hearing loss and related disorders; and consult with other professionals and paraprofessionals, the public, and policy makers about the effects of hearing loss, balance disorders and tinnitus on the quality of life and the needs of persons with these disabilities. Most full-time audiologists work 40-50 hours per week and some work part-time. Typically, the audiologists interacts with a broad range of professional in interdisciplinary teams.
 

Size of the Profession

The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) represents 114,035 professionals. Audiologists held about 12,816 jobs in 2003. About one-half provided services in non-residential health care facilities, including private physician offices, private practices, and speech and hearing centers. More than 23% were employed in hospitals, 10% in school settings, and 8% in colleges and universities. Some audiologists contract to provide services in schools, hospitals or nursing homes or work as consultants to the industry. The majority of audiologists provide direct clinical services but others serve as program administrators, university professors, scientists, consultants and expert witnesses. Some provide consultation about community noise.

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