Audiologist Career Guide

What is an Audiologist?

An audiologist is a primary health care provider who screens, diagnoses, and treats hearing loss, balance issues, and other medical issues related to the ear in children and adults. An audiologist usually has an advanced degree, usually an Au.D. (Doctorate in Audiology) or other master’s or doctoral degree. An audiologist is what we think of as a hearing doctor.

An audiologist specializes in screening patients for hearing loss and other impairments in the ear. Once the impairment is identified, an audiologist may be part of a medical team to provide a  set of solutions that may include hearing aids or other listening assistance devices.

What is a Pediatric Audiologist?

A pediatric audiologist specializes in working with children with regard to hearing loss issues and speech issues arising from hearing loss. When young children have a hearing loss, it almost always results in some speech delay or other pathology. A pediatric audiologist coordinates services with speech pathologists, doctors and other healthcare providers.

There are several types of hearing screenings and tests available. A pediatric audiologist specializes in those tests and screenings that are most effective with children. In addition, many audiologists are adept at sign language, and may work with a sign language educator as part of a child’s rehabilitation plan.

What Does an Audiologist Do?

An audiologist has specialized training and knowledge in the human auditory and vestibular systems.

An audiologist may prepare prescreening forms for clients before their initial appointment. These forms will include general health information and information related to any potential hearing loss or internal ear issue resulting in a balance problem for a patient.

Audiologists also administer and complete hearing exams for patients, they prepare, fit, and maintain hearing aids. An audiologist is also qualified to diagnose and treat balance disorders and ear issues such as tinnitus (ringing in the ears). An audiologist may work directly with a patient on a rehabilitation programs for hearing or speech if that is appropriate.

Audiologists use a variety of electronic and computer equipment to measure when a patient is first able to hear sound and when a patient is able to differentiate sound, or not. Audiologists are also expert at determining which hearing aids to use. They are able to fit a particular device to a patient’s needs. In addition, an audiologist can determine if implants, such as cochlear implants would be beneficial to the patient. Cochlear implants are tiny devices placed under the skin near the ear. They deliver electrical impulses to the auditory nerve in the brain and are helpful with certain types of deafness.

Finally, an audiologist is instrumental in preparing an overall rehabilitation plan for a patient and for the patient’s family.  This might include sign language education, lip reading education, or speech pathology work. It may include an array of listening assistance devices. The audiologist helps the patient and family cope so that communication is restored.

Where Does an Audiologist Work?

Audiologists work in a variety of settings, from hospitals, to clinics to doctor’s offices.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) , 24% of audiologists work in doctor’s offices. Another 24% work in the offices of physical, occupational, speech therapy and other audiologist’s offices. 15% of audiologists are self-employed, 12% work in a hospital setting, and 10% work in an educational setting.

What are the Requirements to Become an Audiologist?

Since 2012 all audiologists have required a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate to apply for a license to practice. A master’s degree is not required. It is not necessary that either degree is in audiology or a related field, but the graduate degree must include sufficient coursework and clinical hours to meet the knowledge and skill requirements set within the audiology certification standards. The Council on Academic Accreditation sets these standards in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology. Almost all new audiologists choose to undertake a doctorate in audiology (AudD).

Every state requires audiologists to be licensed and licensure requirements do vary slightly from state-to-state. Typical prerequisites in addition to completion of a doctorate include 300 – 375 hours of supervised clinical experience; passing the state licensing examination; and completion of nine months of post-graduate clinical experience.

Many audiologists also choose to obtain credentials from either the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and/or the American Board of Audiology (ABA) as although neither are absolutely required, obtaining these credentials may assist with meeting licensure requirements and with securing employment.

ASHA certification is obtained by passing the ASHA Praxis examination. Candidates for certification must also hold a master’s degree in addition to their doctorate. Successful candidates receive the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology (CCC-A).

To obtain ABA certification, the candidate must already hold a valid license to practice in their state. In addition, they must evidence at least 2,000 hours of mentored professional experience and recent employment as an audiologist.

What Skills and Qualities are Required for an Audiologist?

Problem Solver

This type of person tends to like solving problems mentally. Critical thinking is an integral part of the job. An audiologist must use logic and reasoning in diagnosing a patient’ s underlying issues in the hearing loss.

Helper

This is one of the helping professions. People attracted to this profession tend to like helping others. Being active in the desire to help a patient usually results in better patient outcomes and a more adaptive solution for the patient.

Great People Skills

This is a direct services position for a patient and family that is often coping with a crisis or a loss. A good audiologist is not only a good diagnostician, but is also able to empathize with his or her patients, and is able to help them find new and productive solutions in a compassionate manner.

Active Listener

Patients provide a lot of clues to their condition and how they are coping with it, if an audiologist listens closely. The more the audiologist can understand about the patient’s experience, the more the audiologist will understand the patient’s needs. Reflecting back the patient’s experience is one way to listen actively.

Time Management Skills

An audiologist must see a large number of patients in any given day.  Time management skills are important to ensure that the audiologist works in an efficient manner and moves smoothly through his or her case load each day. In addition to direct contact with the patient, an audiologist must enter all medical notes into a patient’s file. This can be a time consuming activity. Details can be forgotten unless notes are made quickly and efficiently after patient sessions.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Being an Audiologist?

Excellent Salary

According to the BLS 2016 data, the median pay for an audiologist is $75,980 annually or $36.53 hourly.  According to the BLS, hospitals tend to pay audiologists a bit more, approximately $81,000 and doctor’s offices tend to pay a bit less at approximately $73,000. Although the salary is high, it is still lower than a doctor would make, and it requires a lengthy and expensive education.

Helping Others

It can be gratifying to help others. An audiologist helps others to regain some if not all of their hearing with the use of testing and proper listening devices. In cases of more profound deafness, an audiologist helps the patient and the patient’s family cope, adapt, and learn other forms of communication. Improving communication and the ability to hear can make a large difference in the lives of these patients.

Collaborative Profession

The job is a good fit for someone who works well collaboratively with others. Most work environments for audiologists are friendly. You must be comfortable working directly with patients and with other health care providers.

Positive Job Outlook

While audiology is still a growing field, it is among the nation’s fastest growing health fields.  The area is expected to grow approximately 21% between 2016 and 2026 according to the BLS. Job prospects are better if you are willing to relocate. However, with an aging population, the need for audiologists is growing.

Long Education

Extensive education requirements may prove a barrier to entry in this profession. Most audiologists have doctoral degrees, many have master’s degrees. In either case, extensive post-bachelor’s degree education is required, along with certification and licensing. This can be time consuming and costly.

Frustration Tolerance

It can be difficult and frustrating to try to determine what is going on inside someone else’s body. Sometimes, even with sophisticated testing equipment, answers can be elusive. A good audiologist must not let frustration cloud the problem at hand, and must be willing to stay with a problem until solutions are found.

Large Student Load Debt Load

Because this field requires a doctoral degree, student loan debt is inevitable.  The cost of education is rising.  While student loan debt varies from one student to another, it is not uncommon for an audiologist to graduate with a combined debt load in excess of $100,000, spanning undergraduate through graduate education.  The salary structure for this position, while excellent, can make paying student loan debt burdensome.

How Much Does an Audiologist Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016 data, the median pay for an audiologist is $75,980 annually or $36.53 hourly.  According to the BLS, hospitals tend to pay audiologists a bit more, approximately $81,000 and doctor’s offices tend to pay a bit less at approximately $73,000.

Pay may vary depending on the setting. It also varies based on education. An audiologist with a doctorate degree is generally paid more than one with a master’s degree. Audiologists in rural settings make less than those who work in urban settings.

What Occupations are Related to Audiologist?

Otolaryngologist: An otolaryngologist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions and diseases of the ear, nose and throat. This health area is different from that of an audiologist. While an audiologist is trained as a “hearing” doctor, an otolaryngologist is an ear doctor. The depth of knowledge and skill is both more broad and deeper.  An audiologist can fit and tailor hearing aids to a particular patient. An otolaryngologist can provide medical treatment, even surgery, for the underlying condition.

Chiropractor: A chiropractor works with, assesses and treats his or her patients by manipulating the spine and musculoskeletal system. Aligning and maintaining spinal health affects the entirety of a person’s general health and well-being, helping the body heal without surgery.

Physical Therapist: A physical therapist works extensively with other health care providers and is responsible for assessing, planning, organizing and working with patients in rehabilitative programs to help patients improve mobility, decrease pain, and increase strength. This may be helpful in the face of a patient’s chronic condition, pain or injury.

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