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Audiologist or Hearing Aid Specialist? What's the Difference?

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Audiologist is ready to give hearing loss information

If you believe that you have hearing loss, or your primary physician has reason to believe that you do, then you may be recommended to see someone who can help you learn more about this condition to treat it effectively. There are different specialists who can help in varying degrees with your hearing health. The two chief categories are the audiologist and the hearing aid specialist.

Though it’s easy to mistake the two professionals at first glance, there is a significant difference in their education, the scope of the treatments they can perform, and their role as a hearing professional in your life. Here, we’re going to break those differences down.

What’s the key difference between audiologists and hearing aid specialists?

Hearing aid specialists, sometimes interchangeably called hearing instrument specialists or hearing aid dispensers, are certified professionals trained and equipped to perform hearing tests and to recommend hearing aids. Audiologists are able to do this as well but are licensed medical specialists who diagnose, treat and manage hearing loss, as well as a range of other hearing and balance-related issues, such as tinnitus and vertigo. Audiologists can also dispense and fit hearing aids for a range of different hearing loss types and causes.

The scope of services provided by the two

Hearing instrument specialists have a smaller scope of practice. They are trained to carry out hearing tests (but are not licensed to diagnose hearing loss) and can help their clients choose and fit the hearing aids that they believe are the best option to treat them. While they are well-versed in hearing aid fitting, care and maintenance, they are not equipped to handle more complex cases of hearing loss, like noise induced.

Audiologists, on the other hand, are academically and clinically trained to provide a much wider range of services. This includes testing for and diagnosing hearing loss, as well as testing, selecting, and fitting hearing aids, like a hearing aid specialist. However, they are also trained to offer further counsel to patients regarding their hearing loss, communication strategies and other treatments should hearing aids not be enough.

Audiologists are also trained to evaluate and treat balance disorders, carry out tinnitus evaluations, and other issues affecting hearing and balance.

The education and training of the two

Audiologists are healthcare professionals who require a significant level of academic and medical training. They’re required to have a Master’s or Doctorate-level degree, and must also go through many hours of supervised training during their studies before they are licensed to practice. Most audiologists will also continue to educate themselves in order to make sure they can offer the most up-to-date and effective levels of care to their patients. Furthermore, audiologists are trained to work with a wide range of people, including infants, adults, the elderly and individuals with special needs.

On the other hand, hearing instrument specialists do not have to have the same level of education as audiologists. They still have to be trained and licensed in order to carry out hearing tests and to offer help in selecting and fitting hearing aids. However, depending on the state, they are typically only required to have a minimum of a high school diploma or the equivalent education to be eligible to go through the accreditation process.

Which should you choose?

Finding the right hearing health professional for you is, in part, about looking at what services you’re hoping to benefit from. If you only need to have a hearing aid fitting, then a hearing aid specialist may be enough to help. However, audiologists are able to carry out more in-depth diagnostic evaluations of the entire auditory system beyond what the hearing aid specialist can do, so it’s typically advised you visit them to establish what testing and evaluations you need.

They are also able to provide their full range of hearing, ear and balance healthcare services to a wider array of people, including children and those with special needs, who hearing aid specialists may not be trained to help. If you have any issues with tinnitus, vertigo or any issues outside of hearing loss alone, then a hearing aid specialist will not be able to help you, but an audiologist is trained to do just that.

Regardless of what services you need, the experience and level of care that your chosen professional brings is of the highest importance. If you want to learn more about what an audiologist can do for you, as well as the standards of care and professionalism that we provide, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Sonus at 703-823-3336.