Audiology is the study of hearing. An audiologist is a health care professional who diagnoses and treats disorders of the auditory (hearing) and vestibular (balance) systems.
Audiologists are concerned with hearing and balance problems. According to the Auditory Foundation of America (AFA), hearing loss is the third most common chronic health problem affecting Americans. Approximately 28 million individuals in the United States are affected by some form of hearing loss, ranging from mild impairment (loss of sensitivity) to total deafness. Balance problems (caused by a defect in the structures of the inner ear) affect approximately two million Americans.
Audiologists provide diagnostic, rehabilitative, and preventative services for individuals suffering from hearing and balance problems. They dispense assistive devices
such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, and telecommunication systems according to the needs of each patient. They educate consumers on the importance of hearing protection in industry, military, music, and other workplace and recreational settings. Audiologists may also conduct research into the assessment, management, and prevention of hearing loss and balance disorders.
An audiologist may choose to work in a variety of settings, including a private office, hospital, medical clinic, non-profit or community center, nursing home, primary or secondary school, college or university, long-term care facility, or industry clinic.
Education and training
The minimum level of education required to become an audiologist is a master's degree from an accredited university or professional school. As of 2001, approximately 115 colleges and universities offer graduate programs in the field of audiology. After completing a nine-month post-graduate clinical fellowship and passing a national standardized examination, an audiologist may earn a Certificate of Clinical Competency in Audiology (CCC-A) from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Most states require that the audiologist become licensed by the state in which they will practice.
Advanced education and training
In the early 1990s, the first Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) degree programs were instituted to address the need for increased clinical training and expanded consumer services. The Au.D. is a post-baccalaureate four-year program that includes a Clinical Fellowship Year (CFY), a 12-month supervised clinical experience, so that students are eligible for state licensure upon graduation. The Au.D. curriculum includes classes in the areas of anatomy and physiology, acoustics and amplification, math, genetics, diagnostic techniques, patient care, sign language, and business management.
The Au.D. was designed to replace the master's as the entry-level degree into the field of audiology. The CFY will become a requirement for national certification after December 31, 2006; by the end of 2011, the doctoral
Vestibular—Relating to one's sense of balance.
degree will become an additional requirement. Audiologists with a master's degree may bypass the conventional four-year program by enrolling in a distance learning program offered at a number of universities.
The median starting income for an audiologist with a master's degree in 1999 was $33,600, and $61,300 for an audiologist with an Au.D. degree.
Employment growth in the field of audiology is projected to remain strong, in part due to the increasing population of persons over the age of 55 and improvements in hearing and assistive technologies and also due to recommendations by the National Institutes of Health in its "Healthy People 2000" program mandating newborn or infant hearing screening.
American Academy of Audiology. 8300 Greensboro Dr., Suite 750, McLean, VA 22102. (800) AAA-2336. <http://www.audiology.org>.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). 10801 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852. (888) 321-ASHA. <http://www.asha.org>.
Audiology Foundation of America. 207 North Street, Suite 103, West Lafayette, IN 47906-3083. (765) 743-6283. <http://www.audfound.org>.
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. 1 Communication Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20892-3456. (800) 241-1044. <http://www.nidcd.nih.gov>.
"Checking Hearing in Newborns." HealthAtoZ.com 2001. <http://www.healthatoz.com/atoz/hearingloss/hlnewborns.asp>.
"Facts: Audiology at a Glance." Audiology Foundation of America. 1999. 4 July 2001. <http://www.audfound.org/audfact.htm>.
"Occupational Outlook Handbook: Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists." Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. 2 October 2000. Accessed 4 July 2001. <http://stats.bls.gov/oco/ocos085.htm>.
"Position Statement on the Au.D.: The Doctor of Audiology Degree." Self Help for Hard of Hearing People, Inc. 1 August 1998. Accessed 4 July 2001. <http://www.shhh.org/position/aud.htm>.
"Scope of Practice in Audiology." American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. 1999. Accessed 4 July 2001. <http://professional.asha.org/library/scope_aud.htm>.
Scott, Ronald L. "Newborn Hearing Screening." Newborn Hearing Screening. 1999. 8 March 1999. <http://www.law.uh.edu/healthlawperspectives/HealthPolicy/990308Newborn.html>.
"The Au.D. FAQ." ProAuD. 12 January 2000. Accessed 4 July 2001. <http://www.proaud.org/faqs/AuDFaq.htm>.
Stéphanie Islane Dionne