An audiologist is a professional who diagnoses and treats hearing and balance problems. An audiologist has received an Au.D. (Doctorate in Audiology), or a Master's or Doctoral degree from an accredited university graduate program in audiology. Audiologists are trained to diagnose, manage and treat hearing or balance problems for individuals from birth through adulthood.
If you or a family member suspect that you have a hearing problem or a balance problem, contact an audiologist. After carefully reviewing your health history and evaluating your hearing, an audiologist will determine whether your condition might be medically treatable and will refer you to an appropriate professional. If your condition is not medically treatable, he or she will review any recommendations for audiologic care or treatment which may include hearing aids, aural rehabilitiation or balance therapy.
If you need assistance locating an audiologist in your area, try our "Find an Audiologist" tool.
- Why should I choose an audiologist as my hearing healthcare provider?
- What is the difference between an audiologist and a hearing aid dealer?
- How do I choose an audiologist?
Audiologists are highly trained healthcare professionals. In fact, they are the only professionals who are university trained and licensed to specifically identify, evaluate, diagnose, and treat audiologic disorders of hearing. Today, a doctorate (Au.D.) degree is required to become an audiologist.
Audiologists use specialized equipment and procedures to accurately test for hearing loss. These tests are typically conducted in sound-treated rooms with calibrated equipment. The audiologist is trained to inspect the eardrum with an otoscope, perform cerumen (ear wax) removal, conduct diagnostic audiologic and vestibular tests, and check for medically-related hearing problems. By virtue of their education, training, and licensing, they are the most qualified professionals to assess and treat hearing and balance disorders.
Your audiologist can advise you if hearing aids are recommended for your hearing loss. It is important to remember that hearing aids alone may not be an instant answer to your hearing problems. They are just a part of the treatment process, which should also include the comprehensive testing, careful counseling, instruction and follow-up that an audiologist will provide. It takes time to adjust to hearing aids, and without expert counseling from an audiologist before and after you obtain hearing aids, successful rehabilitation is far less likely.
In addition to hearing disorders, audiologists are able to assess and treat balance system dysfunctions. Audiologists are trained to perform detailed evaluations of balance and equilibrium. They participate as full members of vestibular rehabilitation teams to recommend and carry out goals of vestibular rehabilitation therapy including, for example, habituation exercises, balance retraining exercises, and general conditioning exercises.
Audiologists are also experts in hearing loss prevention and are able to provide counseling and resources to help prevent noise induced hearing loss and raise awareness about the danger of ototoxic substances.
One key difference between an audiologist and hearing aid dealer is the minimum educational requirements necessary. Audiologists are required to have graduated from an accredited audiology program with a Doctorate or Masters degree. By contrast, very few educational requirements need to be met (they vary by state) before a non-audiologist can sell hearing aids. Another major difference between an audiologist and a hearing aid dealer lies within their scopes of practice. Audiologists are certified and trained to manage many areas of hearing healthcare including providing the following services:
- Comprehensive audiological evaluations including tests of hearing sensitivity, speech understanding, middle ear function, inner ear and auditory nerve function
- Diagnostic tests for balance/dizziness disorders
- Auditory processing evaluations for infants, children and adults
- Design, selection and fitting of hearing instruments and assistive listening devices
- Design, selection, installation and monitoring of classroom amplification systems
- Rehabilitation therapy for hearing disorders which might include strategies to improve aided and unaided hearing, speech-reading (including lip- reading) and sign language
- Rehabilitation for auditory processing disorders
- Rehabilitation for vestibular (balance) disorders
- Cerumen (earwax) management
- Evaluation and management of tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Patient and family counseling about living with hearing loss
- Hearing conservation programs to prevent hearing loss
- Research and development of new evaluation techniques and rehabilitation strategies
The scope of practice for hearing aid dealers is very limited. They perform the following services:
- Rudimentary hearing tests for the purpose of selling hearing aids to adults only
- Hearing aid fitting and sales
Hearing aid dealers focus primarily on product sales, whereas audiologists focus on providing a high-level of patient care to ensure overall hearing health. Audiologists are educated and trained to perform a comprehensive hearing examination that will confirm or rule out the need for medical intervention.
When it comes to your hearing health, choosing an audiologist is the most important decision you will make. Selecting an audiologist who is licensed, well-trained, highly educated, and communicates well is vital to your successful treatment. The Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) can help.
As of 2007, all new ADA Fellow members are required to have earned a Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) clinical degree and today every ADA Fellow and Associate member holds a minimum of a Master’s Degree in audiology. ADA provides members with access to continuing education and peer-mentoring opportunities that promote clinical competency and quality patient care.
ADA member audiologists subscribe to a code of ethics which outlines their responsibility to:
- Protect the welfare of their patients
- Maintain high standards of professional competence, integrity, conduct and ethics
- Maintain a professional demeanor in matters concerning the welfare of patients served
- Provide accurate information to patients served and to the public about the nature and management of auditory disorders and about the profession and services provided by members
- Engage in conduct which shall enhance the status of the profession
- Maintain ethical standards and practices of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology
Most ADA member audiologists are engaged in private or autonomous practice, which provides additional patient benefits including:
- Highly personalized care
- Convenient clinic locations
- Flexible office hours
- Diverse selection of hearing aids
- State-of-the-art treatment options