Audiologists vs. Hearing Instrument Specialists

Dr. Dewsnup Doctorate Diploma

What’s the difference?

People often ask “What’s the difference between an audiologist, a hearing aid dealer, and a hearing aid dispenser?” Through the years, there has been a lot of consumer confusion and controversy over professional roles in diagnosing and treating hearing loss.

It is still common for someone to get their hearing screened, or fitted for a hearing device and still not know if that person they were seeing has an education in what they are doing. It is not uncommon to have consumers dissatisfied with their hearing aid fittings and schedule a second opinion with someone else, only to find out the person they purchased their device from is not an audiologist. There are numerous problems that can arise when an individual without any education in hearing loss fits someone with a hearing aid.

An audiologist and a hearing aid dispenser can both obtain the appropriate state hearing aid sales license. But only those with the highest educational standards and certification can call themselves an audiologist. Doctors of Audiology go to school for 8 years to obtain a clinical doctorate in Audiology. The focus of the doctorate degree is specifically in hearing loss, hearing loss treatment, and hearing related disorders. Doctors of Audiology are allowed to work with all age groups and usually work together with Ear, Nose, and Throat Physicians to treat hearing disorders. Doctors of Audiology have the credentials Au.D. after their name and are not the same thing as a hearing instrument specialist.

A Hearing Instrument Specialist is only required to have a high school diploma or GED and some basic observation hours with another hearing instrument specialist to be licensed to sell hearing aids. The “specialist” after the title can be misleading because in most cases, these salesmen have no college-level education or clinical hours in hearing loss and they are not healthcare providers.