Audiologists treat patients who have problems with hearing, balance, and other neural-related problems. They examine people with these types of problems, assess the problem, and assist them in managing the problem. They use testing instruments such as audiometers and computers that can measure a person's ability to hear and distinguish between sounds. They use the results of these tests, combined with information from the medical, educational, and psychological fields, to diagnose and treat these illnesses. There is a wide array of hearing disorders that result from many factors, such as birth trauma, genetic disorders, or age. Treatments can range from using hearing aids, tuning cochlear implants, counseling, and training using hearing instruments.
Audiologists may work in hearing clinics, where they specialize in carrying out treatments independent of other health professionals. Or they may work in a setting where they cooperate with other health professionals, planning and implementing treatments for people of all ages. They keep detailed records of their patients' progress, helping them justify the cost of treatment for medical reimbursement. Some audiologists specialize in working with a specific demographic, such as the elderly, children, or individuals who need special therapy. Some specialize in workplace noise safety, developing hearing protection programs in factories, schools, or communities.
Audiologists should be able to provide the appropriate levels of support to their clients and their clients' families. They must have patience, compassion, and good listening skills. They need to be able to approach problems in an objective manner. And they should have the ability to communicate with their clients in an easily understood manner.
In 2002, auidologists earned a median annual salary of $48,400. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $32,500, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $73,130.
Training and Education
Almost all State require a license to practice audiology, and the educational requirement for this license is a master's degree in audiology or the equivalent. This requirement is expected to be upgraded soon to a clinical doctoral degree. Other requirements include a passing score on a national examination, 300 to 375 hours of supervised clinical experience, and 9 months of postgraduate professional clinical experience. Forty States require continuing education in order to renew licenses. Graduate programs in audiology are offered by about 107 colleges and universities in the United States, and a Doctor of Audiology degree is offered by 39. Students applying for these programs are required to have taken courses in English, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, and communication sciences.
The Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology (CCC-A), offered by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, can be earned by audiologists if they have a graduate degree and 375 hours of supervised clinical experience, complete a 36-week postgraduate clinical fellowship, and pass an examination. Another option for audiologists is to become certified by the American Board of Audiology, which requires a master's or doctoral degree in audiology, an examination, and 2,000 hours of mentored professional practice.
In 2002, audiologists held about 11,000 jobs. More than 50% worked in offices of physicians; hospitals; offices of other health practitioners, including audiologists; and outpatient care centers.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of audiologists is expected to increase faster than the average due to high growth in the population of people over age 55, who have higher rates of hearing loss. The baby boom generation is now hitting middle age, a time when many neurological disorders and other hearing-related problems often surface.
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