Audiologists diagnose and treat a patient’s hearing and balance problems using advanced technology and procedures. The majority of audiologists work in healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, physicians' offices, and audiology clinics. Some work in schools. Most audiologists work full time.
Audiologists use audiometers, computers, and other devices to test patients' hearing ability and balance, determine the extent of hearing damage, and identify the underlying cause. They typically do the following:
Audiologists measure the volume at which a person begins to hear sounds and the person's ability to distinguish between sounds. Also, before determining treatment options, they evaluate psychological information to measure the impact of hearing loss on a patient. Treatment options vary and may include cleaning wax out of ear canals, fitting and checking hearing aids, or fitting and programming 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. Cochlear 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 use sign language.
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 build a client base, hire employees, keep records, order equipment and supplies, and do other tasks related to running a business.
New audiologists must earn a doctoral degree to enter the practice. The doctoral degree in audiology (Au.D.) is a graduate program typically lasting four years. A bachelor’s degree in any field is needed to enter one of these doctoral programs. Graduate coursework in audiology includes anatomy, physiology, physics, genetics, normal and abnormal communication development, diagnosis and treatment, pharmacology, and ethics. Audiologists must be licensed, and requirements vary by jurisdiction.
Audiologists work with people who are having problems with hearing or balance. They must figure out the causes of problems and the appropriate treatment to address them. They must be supportive of patients and their families. They need to communicate test results, diagnoses, and proposed treatments so that patients clearly understand the situation and options. They also may need to work with other healthcare providers and education specialists regarding patient care. 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 open to providing alternatives plans when patients do not respond to initial treatment. They must work with patients who may need a lot of time and special attention.
Most audiologists work in healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, physicians' offices, or audiology clinics. Some work in schools. Although not physically demanding, the job requires attention to detail, intense concentration and critical thinking.