With graduation season approaching, talking about becoming an audiologist is fitting. What does it take? An audiologist “diagnoses and treats patients suffering from hearing, central auditory processing, and balance disorders” (1).
Undergraduate Education: those who enter this field must go through a lot of school courses, shadowing, practicing, and training. They first must obtain a bachelor’s degree. Currently, there is not a bachelor’s degree designed especially for audiology, but the closest degree is a communication sciences and disorders degree. Some institutions offer this degree with a concentration in audiology due to the degree being more focused on a speech pathology route. If one does not major in a communication disorders degree, they are still able to be eligible to go on to a graduate level audiology program, but depending on the program they must take the necessary courses in graduate school that did not take in undergraduate.
Graduate Education: The next step would be to apply to the graduate program in audiology, which would be the Doctorate of Audiology, also known as an Au.D. There are 74 clinical audiology programs in the United States. Audiology programs require students to take courses in “physiology and psychology of hearing loss, research methods, statistics, neuroanatomy, pharmacology, and methods of diagnosis and treatment” (3). With Optimal Hearing having locations in Georgia and South Carolina, we can talk about schools in those states. Both, Georgia and South Carolina have one degree that offers a Ph.D, which would be a research degree in communication disorders, but not the clinical degree, an Au.D, that would directly allow one to diagnose hearing problems and distribute hearing aids.
- One can also complete state-level requirements to distribute hearing aids, however they are called Hearing Care Professionals or Hearing Instrument Specialists.
- An audiologist is different than an otolaryngologist, also known as an ENT. An ENT is a “physicians trained in the medical and surgical management and treatment of patients with diseases and disorders of the ear, nose, throat (ENT), and related structures of the head and neck” (2). Although different, audiologists and ENT do work together. A patient who has cochlear implants is more likely to see an ENT than an audiologist.
Distinction between Audiologist and Hearing Care Professional: Audiologist and Hearing Care Professionals work in many different settings. They are able to work in “schools, rehabilitation centers, private practice, government and military institutions, and in research laboratories” (3).
Future Outlook: Lastly, audiology is growing profession. It is expected to grow over 20% in the next 10 years. This is due to the aging baby boomer population and hearing damaging activities such as excessively wearing headphones and listening to loud speakers. Being an audiologist and Hearing Care Professional is not an easy job. They have to go through extensive school, training, and test to get to where they are!