Audiology is a field devoted to helping people who have hearing difficulties. Hearing exams are now being done by Ear, Nose and Throat specialists or Speech-Language Pathology specialists, making many people fear that audiologists may soon be a thing of the past. Is this true or is audiology stronger than ever? Learn more about this beneficial field, what it takes to work in audiology and what type of career outlook these professionals can anticipate.
What is an Audiologist?
An audiologist, or hearing loss doctor, is a healthcare professional that assesses, diagnoses and treats patients with hearing difficulties, as well as those suffering from balance disorders and tinnitus. Unlike some professions that only treat certain ages, audiologists treat people of all ages, including newborns. They can even treat patients who suffer from hearing loss due to nerve damage, using assisted listening devices, hearing aids and hearing rehabilitation. Audiologists often work with trained audiology assistants. Some of the duties the audiologist may perform include:
- Prescribing and fitting hearing aids
- Performing hearing or ear-related surgical monitoring
- Assisting in cochlear implant programs
- Developing and implementing auditory conservation programs
- Developing and implementing newborn & infant hearing screening programs
- Providing hearing rehab training
Audiology Careers Receive High Praise!
According to U.S. News & World Report, audiology is a career that is highly recognized and well respected. In fact, as of this writing, U.S. News & World Report ranked audiologists as one of the Best Careers in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In addition to audiology having demand, the field is extremely varied and overlaps other technologies, as listed here:
- Variety of duties and settings – The audiologist may spend his or her day in a variety of settings rather than having to spend all day in an office. A couple of hours may be spent in a school; another couple at a clinic and yet more time may be at a research facility developing new hearing loss equipment.
- Advancing technology – Technology is regularly providing audiologists with new and better tools in which to help patients. One such example is in computer-controlled hearing aids.
- Little competition – Despite the great job demand for audiologists, few people are choosing this career so it’s not very competitive.
Becoming an Audiologist – Audiology Degrees
To become an audiologist, you must complete an audiology graduate program and earn a degree in audiology. Some audiologists may earn a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) or a ScD (Doctor of Science), but most audiologists earn an AuD (Doctor of Audiology). The difference in the naming of these degrees is often determined by the university from which they are offered, and not in the application of the credential. Nevertheless, they are all doctoral degrees that take about four years to complete after you have a bachelor’s degree. The first couple of years you’ll participate in clinical orientation, observations and practical assessments. You’ll also have to pass a written qualifying examination. The last couple years you’ll complete internships or externships to obtain the hands-on training necessary to earn your degree in audiology. Audiologists are required to be licensed in all states. To be eligible for licensure, you must complete from 300 to 375 hours in a supervised clinical internship and at least nine months of post-graduate clinical experience, and you must pass the national licensing exam. Now you’re probably getting an idea as to why this is a very special field – and why job demand is high. Although certification may not be required, employers may require it and it may be a requirement for licensing. Certification can be obtained through the American Board of Audiology or the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. To maintain licensure, you’ll need to complete continuing education credits.
Online Education Offers Opportunities for Aspiring Audiologists
The great news for students who want to become audiologists but can’t attend school full-time or want to continue working is that audiology programs are offered through online education. Some of the programs are 100% online programs that allow you to take all your courses through distance learning to complement your practical experiences. This is also a great opportunity for audiology assistants who are interested in advancing their education and becoming audiologists.
Audiologists Among Fastest Growing Jobs!
Audiologists work in a variety of settings, including clinics, hospitals, military and VA hospitals, elementary and high schools, universities and ENT offices. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts unprecedented job growth for audiologists. Between 2012 and 2022, audiologist can expect a growth of up to thirty-four percent, which is a much-faster-than-average growth.
Salaries & Best Paying Areas for Audiologists
In addition to having excellent employment growth, audiologists also make a very good wage. As of May 2013, audiologists across the nation earned an average annual wage of $71,170, with the lowest ten percent earning $45,1401 and the top ninety percent earning $105,490, according to the BLS. The top-paying states for audiologists in 2013 were Washington, New York, Colorado, District of Columbia and Delaware. The following cities/areas that pay the highest wages to audiologists, according to the BLS include:
- Eastern New Mexico nonmetropolitan area
- Olympia, Washington
- New York-White Plains-Wayne, New York
- San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, California
- Boulder, Colorado
- Toledo, Ohio
Audiology Facts & Statistics that Might Surprise You!
As much as we may think we know about the field of audiology, audiologists and hearing loss in general, there are many interesting facts and statistics that many are not aware of.
- There are only about 10,000 audiologists in the nation.
- An audiologist can treat almost any type of hearing problem you may have.
- Hearing difficulties are not as rare as one might think, considering that almost 50 million Americans suffer from hearing loss in at least one ear.
- For every 100 children born in America, three are born deaf or with a hearing loss.
- Individuals who suffer from a mild hearing loss are two times more apt to develop dementia, and the risk becomes greater if the hearing loss is worse.
- Elderly people with hearing loss are often confused with dementia.
- Approximately forty-seven % of adults who are 75 or older suffer from hearing difficulties.
- Hearing loss is more common in elderly individuals.
- In a study of adults aged 75 to 84 who had hearing loss, the cognitive abilities declined up to forty percent faster than those without hearing loss.
- Tinnitus – ringing of the ears – if often he first sign of hearing loss, and from 25 to 50 million people in the nation have some form of tinnitus.
- Second-hand smoke has been linked as a risk factor for hearing loss.
- Hearing loss is the third most common physical condition, second only to heart disease and arthritis.