Audiologist vs. Hearing Instrument Specialist

Ear Doctor Doctor of Audiology DegreePeople often wonder, what is an audiologist? And 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.

An audiologist and a hearing aid dispenser can both obtain the appropriate state hearing aid sales license. But only those who have achieved the highest educational standards and certification can call themselves an audiologist.

Is an Audiologist a Doctor?

A lot of audiologists have their doctorate degrees in audiology and some have masters level degrees in hearing healthcare. Prior to 2007 a masters degree was required to become an audiologist. Since then It became necessary to increase the academic and clinical training requirements from a master’s degree to a professional doctorate for entry into the profession. Master’s level academic programs no longer exist.

Doctors of Audiology go to school for 8 years to obtain a clinical doctorate in Audiology. They undergo extensive medical training while in their doctoral program, however, they do not undergo full medical training like a medical doctor would. The focus of the doctorate degree is specifically in the anatomy of the ear, 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.

How do I know if my Audiologist is a Doctor?

You will know if your audiologist is a Doctor of Audiology if you see the credentials Au.D. after their name.

What is 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. In most cases, these specialists have no college-level education or clinical hours in hearing loss and they are not healthcare providers, however, they have the training necessary to be able to do basic hearing testing and fit hearing devices.

Your hearing instrument specialist can help you choose the best hearing aids to meet your needs. They can also address ill-fitting devices, malfunctions, and damage to your hearing aids.

What Is a Hearing Aid Dispenser?

Hearing aid dispensers are licensed to fit and furnish hearing aid devices. When you see a hearing aid dispenser, they’ll take measurements to custom-fit your hearing aid and help you choose the best option for your needs. Hearing aid dispensers require prior experience to be able to offer this service.

In some cases, a hearing aid dispenser can also perform basic hearing tests to evaluate your level of hearing loss, though they can’t diagnose underlying conditions that may have caused this impairment. Your dispenser can also adjust your hearing aids and address any questions or concerns about their function.

Is There a Difference Between a Hearing Instrument Specialist and a Hearing Aid Dispenser?

There’s little that distinguishes hearing aid dispensers and instrument specialists. 

Hearing aid dispensers can perform a few important tasks, such as basic hearing evaluations. Some instrument specialists can also do this, but they aren’t required to. Dispensers must be licensed, and many specialists must also be licensed. Both of these individuals can sell, fit, and adjust your hearing aids.

What’s the Difference Between an Audiologist and a Hearing Instrument Specialist?

The main difference between an audiologist and a hearing instrument specialist is education. Audiologists have a clinical degree in the study of Audiology. This means they have the training and expertise to diagnose and treat conditions that cause hearing impairment.

By contrast, hearing instrument specialists don’t need any level of education in audiology or hearing loss. To be a licensed instrument specialist, you simply need experience handling and selling hearing devices.

It may be appropriate to see a hearing instrument specialist or hearing aid dispenser if you’ve already been officially diagnosed and evaluated by an audiologist and simply need help with your devices.

Does my Audiologist need to be a Doctor?

That’s for you to decide. Masters level audiologists will have 6 years of education and Doctors of Audiology will have 8. Just because one has a bit more education than the other doesn’t necessarily mean they will be better. They are both highly educated in hearing loss. AuD’s have more formal education and, therefore, could possibly diagnose or treat more types of hearing loss.

Reasons to See an Audiologist

If you are wondering if seeing an audiologist is right for you, consider this…

Do you value education and training from your healthcare providers? When you’re struggling with any type of hearing loss, an expertly trained audiologist can provide the most thorough assessment and treatment necessary to restore your hearing.

Such expertise can result in the most notable improvement in your quality of life. Seeing someone with extensive education and training can lead you down the right path to hearing resolution.

Do you want the best possible chance of having a successful outcome with your hearing loss and hearing aid fitting? Since instrument specialists and hearing aid dispensers require no official training or education, they may not produce successful outcomes. 

Seeing a medical professional can help you pinpoint the underlying conditions leading to your hearing loss and get the most effective solution.

Patients who visit audiologists are more likely to see a significant resolution in their hearing loss, especially those with more complicated cases. Since audiologists study conditions of the ear and issues that can cause hearing loss, they have the know-how to deal with a wide variety of concerns.

Instrument specialists and aid dispensers can only determine whether hearing loss is present, not how or why. This can lead to a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn’t always produce a positive or lasting outcome.

If you answered yes to either of these questions then seeing an audiologist is right for you. Book an appointment with a Happy Ears Audiologist at one of our hearing center locations today.

Gilbert, AZ

Hearing and Balance Center

4915 E Baseline Rd, Ste 123
Gilbert, AZ 85234

P: (480) 562-6001

F: (480) 562-6010

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Peoria, AZ

Hearing Center

8877 W Union Hills Dr, Suite 350
Peoria, AZ 85382

P: (623) 428-0727

F: (623) 738-3918

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Surprise, AZ

Hearing and Balance Center

14757 W Mountain View Blvd, Ste 120
Surprise, AZ 85374

P: (623) 227-1924

F: (623) 738-3913

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