An audiologist tests, diagnoses, and provides solutions to clients with hearing, balance, and other problems related to the ears. They measure a person’s ability to hear a range of sounds, their ability to differentiate between sounds, and evaluate difficulties with balance (which can be affected by problems in the ear). Audiologists record all of a client’s data and then coordinate with the client and their other health care professionals to determine the best possible treatment.
The number of job openings for audiologists is expected to grow slightly as the baby boomer generation ages. Most states currently require newborn children to be screened for hearing shortly after birth. This provides a steady amount of jobs for audiologists as well.
Audiologist Job Responsibilities
An audiologist will typically test sound levels, whether for an individual or a business. They will provide plans for hearing loss compensation, business noise reduction, or coordinate with other health care professionals (such as a speech-language pathologist) about surgery or treatment plans. An audiologist will counsel clients about personal hearing loss and help determine strategies to minimize the effect on the client’s lifestyle. Audiologists may fit and prescribe hearing devices or sound amplification systems such as hearing aids.
Research audiologists may look for new methods of diagnosing and treating hearing related problems. They may also develop techniques or technology to prevent hearing loss or regain hearing. This can include portable hearing aids or entire room sound amplification systems. Conversely, sound deadening material is a growing field in which some research audiologists are working.
An audiologist will typically work regular hours in an office setting. This may include night and weekend hours, depending on whether the audiologist is working for a franchise business or in private practice. Contracted audiologists may travel frequently to perform their duties in clinics, private businesses, or schools.
Audiologist Training and Education Requirements
The requirements to enroll in an accredited audiology program usually include coursework in biology, chemistry, communication, English, mathematics, physiology and psychology. Graduate-level courses can include anatomy, ethics, pharmacology, and others related to audiology.
An audiologist should be patient and detail-oriented. Often, communication with clients can be difficult. Improvement in hearing, speech and language problems can be slow and take time. An audiologist will need to interpret and communicate repeated test results in an understandable fashion. Due to the technology involved in audiology, at least a moderate background in computer technology will be helpful. Familiarity with American Sign Language (ASL) can also provide audiologists with an advantage.
Audiologists are regulated in their licensing in all states. The requirements are different in each state, but at minimum, each state requires a master’s degree in audiology. However, most states are changing or in the process of changing requirements. A Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) will be required soon for nearly all states. The Praxis Series of Educational Testing Services offers a national examination on audiology, with a passing score required for a license. Also, 300-375 hours of supervised clinical experience and a period of time of professional clinical experience after graduation is typically needed.
Audiologist Salary and Wages
Audiologists earned a median annual salary of $62,030 in May of 2008. Contract audiologists typically earned less, while private practice audiologists had a slightly higher annual salary.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
A license is required for audiologists to practice. Licenses typically must be renewed every 1 to 4 years, depending on the state. License renewal may be tied to continuing educational requirements to ensure audiologists have learned the latest techniques and tools for their profession. Additionally, some states require a separate examination and license before an audiologist can prescribe hearing aids. Medicare, Medicaid, and private health insurers all required a license before reimbursement for audiologist services.
Additionally, audiologists can apply for two primary certifications. One from the American Board of Audiology (ABA) and one from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
The ABA certification process requires a doctoral degree from an accredited school. A national examination on audiology is given, and 2,000 hours of mentored professional practice with a qualified audiologist within a two year period is required. The license can be renewed every three years. At renewal, 45 hours of educational credits must be presented to ensure continuing education.
The ASHA certification is named the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology (CCC-A). A CCC-A requires a graduate degree (soon to be a doctoral degree), 375 hours of supervised experience in a clinical setting, a 36 week postgraduate fellowship in a clinical setting, and to pass the Praxis Series of Educational Testing Services examination in audiology.
In some states, ABA and ASHA certifications can be applied towards licensing requirements.
Audiologist Professional Associations
ASHA is the primary association for speech, hearing, and language professionals in the United States. ASHA serves over 140,000 members in speech, hearing, and language-related fields around the world. The goals of ASHA are to encourage advocacy for people with hearing and communications disorders and advance the technologies involved in communication sciences. ASHA began in 1925 and has certified trained professionals for 55 years. ASHA also helped to establish the national standards for audiologists and speech-language pathologists.