Audiologist Job Description
Audiologists treat hearing issues at both ends of the age spectrum.
Hearing loss is common as people age, so patients in and around their retirement years tend to be an audiologist’s most frequent clientele.
On the other hand, detecting and treating hearing problems in infants is a major concern, as well. Seniors as well as infants both often need the services of an audiologist.
It’s a small field, with only 13,000 audiologists employed nationally in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
But it’s an area likely to grow significantly, as the Baby Boomer generation ages, creating greater demand and opportunities in this occupation.
Adding to the field’s demand are advances in hearing aid technology. New devices are smaller, more comfortable and less noticeable, meaning many hearing loss sufferers put off by the prospect of wearing an aid are changing their opinions.
Work environment for audiologists
Audiologists examine patients for hearing, balance and related ear problems. There are technical skills involved – audiologists use audiometers, computers and other devices – but compassion and communication skills are a must as well.
Anyone who has dealt with hearing loss, either their own or a loved one’s, knows the frustration involved for both the patient and the family. Similarly, patients with balance issues may also feel particularly vulnerable and frustrated.
Communication skills are key to success in this field. Audiologists must be able to communicate so that patients clearly understand their issues and their treatment options.
Patience and critical thinking are necessary as well, particularly when a first line of treatment does not bring about the desired response.
Beyond examinations and treatment, audiologists also counsel patients and families on alternative ways to communicate, such as lip reading and sign language.
Some audiologists work in audiology clinics, while others work in hospitals, doctors’ offices and schools.
The duties of an audiologist typically include:
• Examining and assessing patients for hearing and balance problems
• Determining and administering the proper treatment
• Fitting and dispensing hearing aids
• Researching causes of hearing and balance disorders.
Employment Outlook for Audiologists
About 4,800 new audiologists’ positions are expected by 2020, a growth of 37% since 2010. As senior citizens make up such a large percentage of the patient population, audiologists may want to consider practicing in an area of the country with a large retiree population.
In 2010, the median annual salary for an audiologist was $66,660.
Audiologist Education: Degree and Certificate Requirements
A doctoral degree (Au.D.) is required to enter the audiology field. Some states require that the degree come from a school accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation.
Doctoral programs in audiology usually take four years of study and include supervised clinical practice. Coursework includes anatomy, physiology, physics, genetics, normal and abnormal communication development, diagnosis and treatment, pharmacology and ethics.
Specific requirements vary by state but all audiologists must be licensed. Some employers may require certification. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association offers the Certificate of Clinical Competency in Audiology (CCC-A). Credentials also are offered through the American Board of Audiology.
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