What is audiology? No, it’s not the study of your favorite musical artist. Derived from the
Latin word for ‘to hear,’ audiology is a wing of science dedicated entirely to the study of human hearing.
Therefore, becoming an audiologist will have you dealing with different hearing issues: hearing loss, cochlear implants, and more. Doctors of audiology can make a healthy living and know they are making a significant impact on their community.
But, how do you become an audiologist? If this career path interests you, read on to learn more about the field and discover a step-by-step guide to become an audiologist.
What Is an Audiologist?
Audiologists are experts in the field of hearing. Doctors of audiology harness the latest technology and methods to help individuals deal with hearing and balance disorders.
While you may be familiar with hearing tests where you raise your hand if you hear a beep, these and other tests determine so much more than just hearing. They also signify things about your cognitive, physical, and speech patterns.
What Does an Audiologist Do?
While they have many duties, there are some specific aspects of the job which future audiologists should be aware of when pursuing this career path.
Administers Hearing Tests for Children
If you have ever taken a hearing test, you are already familiar with a large part of audiology: screening for and preventing hearing loss. For a child’s hearing, pediatric audiology offers some of the most significant treatments for childhood development.
According to the American Academy of Audiology, hearing loss is one of the most significant developmental disorders in children. It can appear in infants right away, or not show up for years. This means pediatric audiologists need to remain vigilant and test children throughout childhood to treat any significant developmental problems.
Pediatric audiologists dedicate their lives to ensuring that a child’s hearing is pristine and also detecting hearing loss as soon as possible. After diagnosing a child, they then attempt to treat it through a variety of methods.
There are several hearing tests to detect both minute and significant hearing loss. Some middle ear tests include the Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR), speech testing, pure-tone testing, and Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs).
Conducts Newborn Hearing Screenings
Audiologists check for hearing impairment in the infant population, a crucial aspect of their job duties that has a positive impact on society as a whole. Checking a child’s hearing early on, especially during infancy, can save a lot of pain and awkward social development over the coming years.
Newborn hearing screenings, or universal neonatal hearing screenings, can lead to treatment and therapy opportunities. Catching a hearing issue early on helps better design therapy tailored to the child’s hearing issue.
Assists Patients with Hearing Loss
So what happens once a patient is experiencing hearing loss or deafness? Doctors of audiology assist patients by treating hearing loss through a multitude of ways.
The most well-known method is through assistance from hearing aids. People may recognize them for their widespread use in the elderly population, but people of all ages benefit from hearing aids.
Hearing aids are tiny electronic devices implanted in the ear to help individuals with their particular hearing issues. Think of them as small microphones that can pick up normal sound and amplify it into the person’s ear.
There are two main types of hearing aids, depending on your type and severity of hearing loss: hearing aids in the ear and those that reside outside the ear.
Cochlear implants are devices implanted to stimulate the cochlear nerve, which controls hearing functions. By stimulating the nerve, this assists the individual with hearing.
Cochlear implants are fantastic options for those with moderate to severe hearing loss. They have the added benefit of having some of the best success rates out of any other medical prosthetic.
Essential Audiologist Skills
To ensure people of all ages receive the best treatment for hearing loss, doctors of audiology need to observe all age groups and consider all possibilities for mild to severe hearing loss. By observing what unique forms of hearing loss individuals have, they can better perform their duties and construct treatment plans.
Great Communication Skills
As with any doctor, audiologists need to be able to communicate with patients. They need to diagnose hearing and balance disorders, explain problems to patients, and propose different ways of tackling a particular issue.
Doctors of audiology need compassion, as well. When screening a child’s hearing, they might need to break less than favorable news to parents and family members. Ear problems can affect many more people than just those who have an initial hearing loss. It would be best if you showed compassion to those that don’t fully understand the impacts of severe hearing loss.
Audiologist Salaries and Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2019 median salary for audiologists was $77,600 per year, or $37.31 per hour. For more experienced doctors of audiology, salary estimates can reach well over $100,000 per year.
The projected job outlook for audiologists is fantastic. The field will experience a projected 13 percent increase, much faster growth than the average for all other occupations. People will continue to experience hearing loss into old age, so there will always be a need for doctors of audiology.
Given the severity of childhood hearing loss and the long period it takes to ensure that a child’s hearing is perfect, the need for audiologists will likely never cease.
How Long Does it Take to Become an Audiologist?
Along with completing an undergraduate degree, future audiologists have to earn their doctoral degree in audiology. So, how long does that take? Along with a required eight-month, extended clinical fellowship, education will take a future audiologist about eight years to fully complete.
How to Become an Audiologist: A Step by Step Guide
Becoming a doctor of audiology is no easy feat and includes multiple, intensive steps. If you have the determination and know-how, you can master the process in four easy steps.
Step 1: Earn Your Undergraduate Degree
For the start of any worthwhile career path, earning a bachelor’s degree is the foundation of a good education. Luckily, it doesn’t really matter what you choose as your major for you to later pursue a doctoral degree in audiology. However, it does matter when you apply for graduate school.
Step 2: Get Your Master’s and Doctoral Degrees
This is where you will learn the tricks of the trade. With your master’s degree, you need to specialize in audiology. To ensure an easy career path toward your doctoral degree in audiology, you need to possess fantastic GRE scores. You need to have mastered various science and math-related courses in your college career, like biology.
Once you complete your two years of your graduate degree, it’s time to kick it into high gear with your doctoral degree in audiology. To practice audiology, you absolutely need to earn this degree.
A doctoral program usually lasts four years as you earn clinical experience and learn all there is to know about being an audiologist. Along with valuable knowledge, candidates for audiology need to receive their licenses. They can also pursue optional certificates offered by ASHA and the American Board of Audiology.
Step 3: Receive Licenses and Certificates
Audiologists must be licensed to practice their field of medicine. There are a few ways to earn licensure.
The American Board of Audiology
The American Board of Audiology, or the ABA, is an organization responsible for accrediting and licensing doctors of audiology.
The American Board of Audiology offers various certificates to those who want to prove their expertise. While these are optional, we highly recommend earning some to bolster your chances of finding a good job.
Not only do these certificates offered by the American Board of Audiology improve your chances of employment, but they show how well-versed you are in audiology.
ASHA, or the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, is the prime resource and members-only program regarding audiology. You can join ASHA after earning a doctoral degree in audiology. You need to show your clinical competence in audiology, and finally earn the Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC).
Earning the Certificate of Clinical Competence is one of the final steps toward becoming a fully-fledged audiologist. ASHA’s certificate is one of the best certifications in the field.
Step 4: Start Working
Now that you have certifications, a doctoral degree, and personal bonafides from ASHA and the American Board of Audiology, it’s time to get to work. Who do you want to serve in the community?
Audiologists can work in nearly every facet of the healthcare sector. Doctors of audiology work in children’s hospitals, health clinics, physicians’ offices, school districts, and even their own audiology practices.
Should You Become an Audiologist?
Absolutely. If you want a career path that is brimming with opportunities to help people of all ages, becoming an audiologist is the perfect occupation for you.
What should I major in to become an audiologist?
You don’t need to focus your undergraduate major on audiology. Once you enter a master’s and doctoral degree program, that’s when you concentrate your specialization on audiology.
What is the difference between an audiologist and an otologist?
Audiologists are health professionals who earn their doctoral degrees in audiology, while otologists complete medical school and other rigorous learning processes. Otologists need to learn how to perform surgery and complete a minimum of six years of clinical training and fellowships.
Doctors of audiology diagnose hearing loss and balance disorders, while an otologist can perform surgery on the ears, like inserting tubes into the ear. For this reason, many doctors of audiology refer patients to otologists for more intensive procedures.
What are the responsibilities of an audiologist?
Specifically, audiologists focus on hearing loss, balance disorders, treating ear infections, and administering hearing tests for people of all ages.