Audiologists diagnose and treat a patient’s hearing and balance problems, using advanced technology and procedures.                 

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
  • Administer relief procedures for various forms of vertigo
  • Fit and dispense hearing aids
  • Counsel patients and their families on ways to listen and communicate, such as by lip reading or through American Sign Language
  • See patients regularly to check on hearing and balance and to continue or change the treatment plan
  • Keep records on the progress of patients
  • Conduct research related to the causes and treatment of hearing and balance disorders

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 volume at which a person begins to hear sounds and the person's ability to distinguish between sounds.

Before determining treatment options, they 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 fitting the patient with cochlear implants to improve hearing. Cochlear implants are tiny devices that are placed under the skin near the ear in an operation. The implants deliver electrical impulses directly to the auditory nerve in the brain, so a person with certain types of deafness can hear.

Audiologists also counsel patients on other ways to cope with profound hearing loss, such as by learning to lip read or by using American Sign Language. 

Audiologists can help a patient suffering from vertigo or dizziness. 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 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 13,000 jobs in 2012. Most audiologists work in healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, physicians' offices, and audiology clinics. Some work in schools or for school districts and travel between facilities. Audiologists work closely with registered nurses, audiology assistants, and other healthcare professionals.

Work Schedules

Most audiologists work full time. Some work weekends and evenings to meet patients’ needs. Those who work on a contract basis may spend a lot of 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 vary by state.

Education

The doctoral degree in audiology (Au.D.) is a graduate program typically lasting 4 years. 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. Graduate 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. Although it is not required in all cases, certification is required by some states or employers.

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 $69,720 in May 2012. 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 $43,820, and the top 10 percent earned more than $101,130.

Most audiologists work full time. Some may work weekends and evenings to meet patients’ needs. Those who work on a contract basis may spend a lot of time traveling between facilities.

Job Outlook

Employment of audiologists is projected to grow 34 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 4,300 new jobs over the 10-year period.

An aging baby-boom population will continue to increase the demand for most healthcare services. Hearing loss increases as people age, so an aging population is likely to increase demand for audiologists. The early identification and diagnosis of hearing disorders in infants also will 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 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 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

American Board of Audiology

For information on doctoral programs in audiology, visit

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

FAQ

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There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. We recommend the Career Personality Profiler assessment ($29), the Holland Code assessment ($19), or the Photo Career Quiz (free).