An audiologist is a doctor who evaluates, diagnoses, treats, and manages hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance disorders in children as well as adults.
After diagnosis, an audiologist may:
- Prescribe hearing aids
- Recommend surgery on the ear as it relates to hearing
- Recommend various implantable hearing devices
- Provide hearing rehabilitation
Currently, there are approximately 12,250 audiologists in the United States.
Audiology differs from most medical professions in that a person wishing to practice in this specialty field is not required to earn a medical degree. Instead, to become an audiologist, a candidate must earn a bachelor's degree; a doctoral degree; complete a required number of clinical hours and achieve certification.
Actual audiology training begins once a candidate enrolls in a graduate program. The program should be accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Most graduate programs require at least a four-year commitment but may be extended by one to two years in order to allow for ample research.
During a candidate's graduate program, they are also required to complete at least 1,820 hours of clinical practice. The clinic hours are supervised by individuals who are certified by the ASHA. The goal of the clinic hours is for the candidate to achieve the knowledge and skills in some of the following areas:
- Genetics and associated syndromes related to hearing and balance
- Normal aspects of auditory physiology and behavior over the life span
- Normal development of speech and language
- Language and speech characteristics and their development across the life span
- Effects of hearing loss on communication and educational, vocational, social, and psychological functioning
- Effects of pharmacologic and teratogenic agents on the auditory and vestibular systems
- Instrumentation and bioelectrical hazards
- The use of instrumentation according to manufacturer's specifications and recommendations
- Promote hearing wellness, as well as the prevention of hearing loss and protection of hearing function by designing, implementing, and coordinating universal newborn hearing screening, school screening, community hearing, and occupational conservation and identification programs
- Assessing individuals with suspected disorders of hearing, communication, balance, and related systems
- Performing otoscopy for appropriate audiological assessment/management decisions, determining the need for cerumen removal, and providing a basis for medical referral
- Evaluating auditory-related processing disorders
- Evaluating functional use of hearing
Therefore, the path to becoming an audiologist is the following:
- 4 years of undergraduate education
- 4-6 years of graduate education
- 1,820 hours of clinic work (during graduate education)
The path to becoming an audiologist was not always rigorous. In fact, prior to 2012 audiologists with a master's degree were able to practice independently.
Audiologists must be licensed to practice independently. There are two certifications available to audiologists: the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) offers the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology (CCC-A). Board certification in audiology is also available from the American Board of Audiology (ABA).
The ASHA certification is valid for three years; audiologists must complete 30 hours of continuing professional development every three years to maintain certification. ABA board certification is also valid for three years. In order to renew certification, 60 hours of continuing education courses are required.
In almost all states, a current license in audiology or speech-language pathology is also required to practice.
Where Audiologists Work
Audiologists can work in hospitals, physician offices, or independent audiology clinics. Audiologists may also be employed by government agencies or corporations with the task being to oversee activities related to workplace safety and hearing loss prevention.
Other health care professionals often work in tandem with audiologists since hearing disorders can impact many aspects of a patient's life.
Clinic audiologists may specialize in any of the following:
- Cochlear implants
- Hearing aids
- Tinnitus and auditory processing
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 34% growth in the field of audiology by 2022 since there is a large aging population of the United States and it is not uncommon for hearing loss to increase with added age.
On average, an audiologist earns approximately $64,348 annually with a salary range of $48,901 to $86,294. The top paying states for audiologists include New Jersey, California, Massachusetts, Kentucky and New York.
How Audiologists Help People
Audiologists provide professional and personalized services to improve patients' daily lives by managing issues that impact hearing and balance, including:
- The loss of hearing
- Tips on improving communication
- Screening individuals to identify potential hearing problems
- Diagnosing and treating balance problems
- Helping fit hearing aids
By detecting ear pathology and treating hearing-related disorders, audiologists help patients to succeed in school and work, as well as to get the most out of their daily interactions with others.
Medical Negligence and Audiologists
While medical malpractice claims against audiologists are rare, they do happen. Examples of possible errors that may give rise to legitimate medical malpractice claims against an audiologist include:
- Incomplete case history
- Improper supervision of students (clinic)
- Improperly selecting, or failing to conduct a test due to time constraints
- Failing to make a referral when necessary to do so
- Improper diagnosis
- Error in performance of treatment
- Delay in treatment
- Inadequate monitoring
Experienced Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorneys
If you suspect that you or a loved one has suffered serious injury as a result of an audiologist's negligence, you need an experienced medical malpractice attorney. The attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian have a proved track record of success in getting victims the compensation they deserve after medical negligence. Call our offices today for a free consultation and to learn more about your legal options. We will not charge any attorney fees until you get the compensation you deserve.