Audiologists diagnose, manage, and treat a patient’s hearing, balance, or related ear problems.

Duties

Audiologists typically do the following:

  • Examine patients who have hearing, balance, or related ear problems
  • Assess the results of the examination and diagnose problems
  • Determine and administer treatment to meet patients’ goals
  • Provide treatment for tinnitus, a condition that causes ringing in the ear
  • Fit and dispense hearing aids
  • Counsel patients and their families on ways to listen and communicate, such as lip reading or through technology
  • Evaluate patients regularly to check on hearing and balance and to continue or change treatment plans
  • Record patient progress
  • Research the causes and treatment of hearing and balance disorders
  • Educate patients on ways to prevent hearing loss

Audiologists use audiometers, computers, and other devices to test patients’ hearing ability and balance. They work to determine the extent of hearing damage and identify the underlying cause. Audiologists measure the loudness at which a person begins to hear sounds and the person’s ability to distinguish between sounds and understand speech.

Before determining treatment options, audiologists evaluate psychological information to measure the impact of hearing loss on a patient. Treatment may include cleaning wax out of ear canals, fitting and checking hearing aids, or working with physicians to fit the patient with cochlear implants to improve hearing. Cochlear implants are tiny devices that are placed under the skin near the ear and deliver electrical impulses directly to the auditory nerve in the brain. This allows a person with certain types of deafness to be able to hear.

Audiologists also counsel patients on other ways to cope with profound hearing loss, such as lip reading or using technology.

Audiologists can help a patient suffering from vertigo or other balance problems. They work with patients and provide them with exercises involving head movement or positioning that might relieve some of their symptoms.

Some audiologists specialize in working with the elderly or with children. Others educate the public on hearing loss prevention. Audiologists may design products to help protect the hearing of workers on the job. Audiologists who are self-employed hire employees, keep records, order equipment and supplies, and complete other tasks related to running a business.

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Work Environment

Audiologists held about 13,600 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of audiologists were as follows:

Offices of physicians 29%
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists                         27
Hospitals; state, local, and private 15
Educational services; state, local, and private 10

Some audiologists travel between multiple facilities. Audiologists work closely with registered nurses, audiology assistants (a type of medical assistant), and other healthcare workers.

Work Schedules

Most audiologists work full time and some work more than 40 hours per week. Some work weekends and evenings to meet patients’ needs. Those who work on a contract basis may spend time traveling between facilities. For example, an audiologist who is contracted by a school system may have to travel between different schools to provide services.

Education and Training

Audiologists need a doctoral degree and must be licensed in all states. Requirements for licensure vary by state.

Education

The doctoral degree in audiology (Au.D.) is a graduate program that typically takes 4 years to complete. A bachelor’s degree in any field is needed to enter one of these programs.

Graduate coursework includes anatomy, physiology, physics, genetics, normal and abnormal communication development, diagnosis and treatment, pharmacology, and ethics. Programs also include supervised clinical practice. Graduation from a program accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation is required to get a license in most states.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Audiologists must be licensed in all states. Requirements vary by state. For specific requirements, contact your state’s licensing board for audiologists.

Audiologists can earn the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology (CCC-A), offered by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. They also may be credentialed through the American Board of Audiology. Certification can be earned by graduating from an accredited doctoral program and passing a standardized exam. Certification may be required by some states or employers. Some states may allow certification in place of some education or training requirements needed for licensure.

Personality and Interests

Audiologists typically have an interest in the Thinking and Helping interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people.

If you are not sure whether you have a Thinking or Helping interest which might fit with a career as a audiologist, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Audiologists should also possess the following specific qualities:

Communication skills. Audiologists need to communicate test results, diagnoses, and proposed treatments, so patients clearly understand the situation and options. They also may need to work with other healthcare providers and education specialists regarding patient care.

Compassion. Audiologists work with people who are having problems with hearing or balance. They should be supportive of patients and their families.

Critical-thinking skills. Audiologists must concentrate when testing a patient’s hearing and be able to analyze each patient's situation, to offer the best treatment. They must also be able to provide alternative plans, when patients do not respond to initial treatment. 

Patience. Audiologists must work with patients who may need a lot of time and special attention.

Problem-solving skills. Audiologists must figure out the causes of problems with hearing and balance and the appropriate treatment or treatments to address them.

Pay

The median annual wage for audiologists was $77,600 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $54,010, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $120,750.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for audiologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private $83,820
Educational services; state, local, and private 81,190
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists                      75,520
Offices of physicians 75,490

Most audiologists work full time and some work more than 40 hours per week. Some may work weekends and evenings to meet patients’ needs. Those who work on a contract basis may spend time traveling between facilities.

Job Outlook

Employment of audiologists is projected to grow 16 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 2,200 new jobs over the 10-year period.

An aging baby-boom population and growing life expectancies will continue to increase the demand for most healthcare services. Hearing loss and balance disorders become more prevalent as people age, so the aging population is likely to increase demand for audiologists.

The early identification and diagnosis of hearing disorders in infants also may spur employment growth. Advances in hearing aid design, such as smaller size and the reduction of feedback, may make such devices more appealing as a means to minimize the effects of hearing loss. This may lead to more demand for audiologists.

Job Prospects

Demand may be greater in areas with large numbers of retirees, so audiologists who are willing to relocate may have the best job prospects.

For More Information

For more information on state-specific licensing requirements, contact the state’s licensing board.

For more information about audiologists, including requirements for certification and state licensure, visit

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)

American Board of Audiology

American Academy of Audiology

 

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