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An audiologist is a specialized healthcare professional trained to identify, diagnose, and provide treatment for hearing, balance, and certain neurological disorders. They work with clients of all ages and from all walks of life, typically collaborating with an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist if advanced surgical care is required. Many audiologists also participate in clinical research to further their field and advance our understanding of hearing care and hearing health.

Roles and Responsibilities of an Audiologist

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, an audiologist's responsibilities include: 
  • Identifying, testing, diagnosing, and managing disorders associated with hearing and balance. 
  • Performing and interpreting a variety of ear examinations, including pure-tone audiometry, speech audiometry, and otoscopy. 
  • Performing and interpreting behavioral and lifestyle assessments.
  • Provide counsel on hearing loss and hearing health.
  • Supervise and conduct hearing loss screening programs for newborns.
  • Assess the eligibility of a client for hearing aids, cochlear implants, etc. 
  • Recommend, provide, fit, and configure hearing assistance technology such as hearing aids.
  • Work with clients to help them adjust to new hearing assistance technology. 
  • Recommend and provide therapeutic programs such as speech reading, tinnitus retraining, and more. 
  • Provide education on hearing loss, tinnitus, and other disorders of the ear.
  • Supervise and train audiology assistants. 
  • Collaborate with colleagues and audiological associations to develop professional and technical standards. 
  • Offer consultation on accessibility, communication management, acoustics, and venue design. 
  • Coordinate hearing screening and conservation programs. 

Becoming an Audiologist: Licensing and Education Requirements

An audiologist must pursue a Master's Degree or a Doctorate in audiology from an accredited university. They must also spend at least one year in a fellowship or externship and submit to a board licensing and accreditation exam. Typically, an audiologist will receive a certification from the American Speech Language Hearing Association in addition to a state license.

Audiologists must also enroll in continuing education and regularly retake their certification exam to ensure their license is up to date. 
computer with ear buds

How Audiologists Differ From Other Hearing Care Professionals

There are three different types of hearing care professionals: 
  • Hearing instrument specialists
  • Audiologists
  • Otolaryngologists, aka Ear, Nose, and Throat specialists

Hearing Instrument Specialists vs. Audiologists

A hearing instrument specialist is to your ears what an optometrist is to your eyes. They can test for the presence and type of hearing loss, then recommend a hearing aid based on the result. They also help clients with hearing aid fitting and configuration and provide guidance on use and care.

They differ from audiologists because they are not qualified to treat rarer or more complex hearing problems and balance disorders. They also do not offer rehabilitation, tinnitus retraining therapy, or cochlear implant readjustment. Finally, audiologists typically offer a wider selection of tests than hearing instrument specialists. 

Audiologists vs. ENTs

There are three main differences between an audiologist and an otolaryngologist:
  • Audiologists are not qualified to prescribe medication or perform surgical procedures.
  • Otolaryngologists offer more comprehensive testing, while audiologists are typically more specialized.
  • Audiologists specifically focus on hearing, while otolaryngologists—as their name suggests—treat all disorders associated with the ear, nose, and throat.  
  • Typically, an audiologist will refer a client to an otolaryngologist if they are unable to diagnose the client's hearing disorder or suspect the client may require prescription medication/surgical intervention.

Learn more about audiology, hearing tests, and hearing care by reading our FAQ.