The Difference Between an Audiologist and a Hearing Instrument Specialist

If you have difficulty with hearing, you may consider going to a specialist who can help you. Before you search for “audiologist near me,” it is helpful to understand what type of professional you need to see. Audiologists and hearing instrument specialists are different. Depending on your needs, you may need to see one and not the other.

Both professions deal with testing people for hearing loss. Additionally, they both can help patients with certain treatments. However, an audiologist is able to do a lot more than a hearing aid specialist.

What Is an Audiologist?

An audiologist is a medical professional who specializes in diagnosing, treating and managing conditions related to hearing. Today, audiologists must have a doctorate degree in audiology to be board certified. However, this requirement only came into practice in 2007. Prior to that point, audiologists could practice with a master’s level degree in hearing healthcare.

The simple way to determine if an audiologist has a doctorate or a master’s degree is to look at his or her credentials. If the audiologist lists Au.D. after the name, he or she has a doctorate.

Doctors of Audiology have completed at least an undergraduate and doctorate program. This means they have spent eight years in school working towards earning their degrees. They undergo extensive medical training in the program but do not receive full medical training like a medical doctor. Unlike some other healthcare professions, audiologists are not medical doctors with a specialty.

The primary focus of audiology programs is the anatomy of the ear, hearing loss, hearing loss treatment and related topics. Although no longer offered, the former master’s level academic programs covered similar topics but were less intensive.

What Is a Hearing Aid Specialist?

A hearing aid or hearing instrument specialist can also work with people suffering from hearing loss. However, they have significantly lower training requirements. Many employers only require a high school diploma or GED. In some states, there are licensing requirements for hearing aid specialists but this is not consistent nationally.

Most hearing aid specialists’ training with hearing aids and hearing loss treatment is completed on the job. This may be as simple as observation hours with another specialist.

It is noteworthy that a hearing aid specialist is a salesperson as well as a medical technician. He or she may be very capable of guiding you toward the right hearing aids for your needs. However, unlike an audiologist, the hearing aid specialist’s primary function is to sell hearing aids, not to treat hearing conditions.

There is nothing wrong with seeking help from a hearing aid specialist. Nonetheless, it is helpful to keep this priority in mind.

What Can Audiologists and Hearing Aid Specialists Help With?

Hearing aid specialists can help with several key needs of hearing loss patients. These are some of their job responsibilities:

  • Testing hearing
  • Assessing and explaining test results
  • Selling hearing aids
  • Explaining how to properly use and care for hearing aids

Audiologists can do all the above and significantly more. These are some of the additional responsibilities that audiologists can perform:

  • Examine patients
  • Perform more advanced hearing tests
  • Diagnose patients
  • Prescribe treatment
  • Provide education about hearing loss and preventative practices

Although an audiologist is not a medical doctor, he or she functions a lot like one. The audiologists’ focus is primarily on treating the patient rather than on providing hearing aids.

Who Do You Need To See?

Many patients see both audiologists and hearing aid specialists in the course of receiving hearing loss treatment. However, you may be wondering who you need to see if you are experiencing hearing difficulties. To determine if you need to see an audiologist, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have symptoms of hearing problems or are you concerned about possible hearing problems?
  • Do you want to see a well-educated and trained healthcare professional for your hearing issues?
  • Do you want to maximize the possibility of a positive outcome from your hearing treatment and hearing aid fitting?

If these answer to any of these questions is a yes, then you likely need to see an audiologist. Depending on your insurance, you may be able to schedule an appointment with an audiologist directly or you may need to see your primary care physician first.

This doesn’t mean that there is no reason to see a hearing aid specialist. Your audiologist may guide you to see one to receive a hearing aid after you have received your prescription. Additionally, many people find seeing hearing aid specialists for help with their aids more convenient than scheduling an audiologist appointment. Nonetheless, if treatment is your priority, you should see an audiologist.

The Importance of Proper Hearing Care

Now that you know the difference between an audiologist and a hearing aid specialist, you are ready to find the right one for you. Check for “audiologist near me” to get started or book an appointment at a Happy Ears Hearing Center location.

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