What Is an Audiologist?

Individuals looking for hearing loss treatment face a number of challenges, including medical terms that may be unfamiliar and categories of health care professionals that may seem confusing. For instance, what is the difference between an audiologist and a hearing instrument specialist?

Ear Doctors, Audiologists, Hearing Aid Specialists — What’s the Difference?

The types of hearing care professionals you might encounter in seeking help with your hearing loss differ in both their education and their skills.

Audiologists and Doctors of Audiology
An audiologist is a licensed hearing health care professional who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss and balance disorders in adults and children. You can think of an audiologist primarily as a “hearing doctor.” Most audiologists have completed a doctor of audiology (Au.D.) degree, though there are other doctoral degrees within the field (Ph.D., Sc.D., and others). Audiologists typically offer the following services:

  • Complete hearing exams
  • Fitting, adjustment, and maintenance of hearing aids
  • Treatment for balance disorders and tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Hearing and speech rehabilitation programs


Audiologists possess comprehensive knowledge of the human auditory and vestibular systems, and they have extensive training in sound reproduction, which is critical to the accurate fitting and adjustment of hearing aids.

Hearing Instrument Specialists
Hearing instrument specialists (or, in some states, licensed hearing aid dispensers) are health care professionals who specialize in recommending and fitting appropriate hearing aid technology. Hearing instrument specialists are typically up to date on the latest technology available in the field — including assistive listening devices (amplified telephones, alarm systems, etc.) — and are experienced in performing and evaluating basic hearing tests.

Hearing instrument specialists must be either board-certified or licensed by the state. Most states also require an apprenticeship or a specified period of practical experience before they are licensed.

Otolaryngologist
Otolaryngologists are physicians (M.D.s or doctors of medicine) who specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases of the ears, nose, mouth, and throat. As opposed to an audiologist, who is more like a “hearing doctor,” you can think of an otolaryngologist as an “ear doctor.” Trained in both medicine and surgery, otolaryngologists typically treat the types of profound hearing loss that require pharmaceutical or surgical treatment, like a cochlear implant. These types of hearing loss include loss caused by trauma, infection, or benign tumors in the ear.

After completing a medical course of treatment, otolaryngologists often refer patients to an audiologist for the prescription and fitting of digital hearing aids or counseling to help redevelop communication and language recognition skills.

No matter what type of specialist you decide to see for your hearing needs, the most important factor is the overall experience they provide, which should include a comprehensive approach to diagnosing, treating, and reevaluating your hearing. Partnering with a professional who listens to your needs is critical to the success of your treatment plan.

Exposure to loud noise

Certain medications

Diet

Head trauma

Stress

Eardrum blockage

Jaw joint disorders

Hearing loss

Masking: An electronic device called a masker may be worn to distract from the ringing sensation. Maskers fit in the ear similarly to hearing aids and produce low-level sounds. In addition, bedside sound generators and other devices can also help remove the perception of ringing.

Tinnitus Retraining Therapy:A therapeutic process in which we specialize, and has given relief to many of our patients. Our process is a combination of sound therapy and counseling, which alters the brain’s neural signals and weakens the perception of tinnitus, allowing you to live your daily life far more peacefully.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:A type of counseling that helps to change the body’s emotional reaction to tinnitus by altering negative thought patterns and helping to relieve stress.

Sit or stand 3 to 6 feet away to maximize audibility

Raise your voice slightly

Use short, simple sentences

All my questions were answered, and Dr. Harold Kim gave me all the time I needed. Dr. Harold Kim explained things well and gave detailed answers to my different options.

Anonymous
,
2018

Very nice. [Dr. Harold Kim] gave information I could understand.

Anonymous
,
2018

Dr. Harold Kim is knowledgeable, efficient, and a good communicator. Great combo of expertise and professional/personalism. I appreciate being able to get appointments fairly easily at the clinic — flexibility with scheduling and communication.

Anonymous
,
2017

Forms Download

Ready to Start Your Journey to Better Hearing?

Contact our ENT and hearing professionals today to begin.

Created By
Cascadia IT Services, LLC