An audiologist is a professional who diagnoses, treats, and manages individuals with hearing loss or balance problems. Audiologists have received a master's or doctoral degree from an accredited university graduate program. Their academic and clinical training provides the foundation for patient management from birth through adulthood. Audiologists determine appropriate patient treatment of hearing and balance problems by combining a complete history with a variety of specialized auditory and vestibular assessments. Based upon the diagnosis, the audiologist presents a variety of treatment options to patients with hearing impairment or balance problems. Audiologists dispense and fit hearing aids as part of a comprehensive habilitative program. Audiologists may be found working in medical centers and hospitals, private practice settings, schools, government health facilities and agencies, as well as colleges and universities. As a primary hearing health provider, audiologists refer patients to physicians when the hearing or balance problem requires medical or surgical evaluation or treatment.
Audiologists work in private practice offices, hospitals and medical centers, clinics, public and private schools, universities, rehabilitation or speech and hearing centers, health maintenance organizations and nursing homes. Audiologists work closely with government agencies, practicing physicians and hearing aid manufacturers. Audiologists conduct clinical activities with patients, are involved in hearing research, dispense hearing aids and assistive listening devices and teach at universities and medical schools.
- Hearing Testing
Audiologists use specialized equipment to obtain accurate results about hearing loss. These tests are typically conducted in sound-treated rooms with calibrated equipment. Hearing loss is caused by medical problems about 10% of the time. Audiologists are educated to recognize these medical problems and refer patients to ear, nose and throat physicians (known as otolaryngologists). Most persons with hearing impairment can benefit from the use of hearing aids, and audiologists are knowledgeable about the latest applications of hearing aid technology.
- Hearing Services for Infants & Children
Good hearing is essential to the social and intellectual development of infants and young children. Audiologists test hearing and identify hearing loss in children of any age. This includes newborn and infant hearing screening and diagnostic hearing tests with young children. Audiologists provide hearing therapy and fit hearing aids on babies and young children with hearing loss.
- Services for School Children
Audiologists provide a full range of hearing and rehabilitative hearing services in private and public schools for students in all grades. Such services are essential to the development of speech, language and learning skills in children with hearing problems.
- Relationships with Other Disciplines
Audiologists often work with many other health care disciplines to provide services to individuals with hearing loss and those at risk for hearing loss. Audiologists frequently receive referrals from primary care physicians, otolaryngologists, school audiologists, etc. for concerns about a child’s hearing. One of the primary reasons for a child to be referred to an audiologist for a hearing evaluation is for concerns regarding a child’s speech and language development.
- Team Assessment
Audiologists may work within multi-disciplinary teams to diagnose and provide recommendations for children. The professionals included in a multi-disciplinary team are based largely on the setting in which the audiologist works. On a multi-disciplinary team that assesses children at risk for development disorders, an audiologist's role is to determine if hearing loss is a factor in the child's development. Cochlear implant teams might consist of otolaryngologists, audiologists, psychologists, social workers, radiologists, and speech language pathologists. A school team might include the special education teacher, psychologist, speech pathologist, audiologist, general education teacher and the school nurse.
- Hearing Services & Counseling
Audiologists are vitally concerned that every person, regardless of age, benefit from good hearing. Audiologists provide individual counseling to help those with hearing loss function more effectively in social, educational and occupational environments.
- Hearing Aids & Assistive Listening Devices
Audiologists provide complete hearing aid services to clients with hearing problems. Audiologists are also experts with assistive listening equipment and personal alerting devices. Audiologists provide education and training so that persons with hearing impairment can benefit from amplification and communication devices.
- Hearing Conservation Programs
Prolonged exposure to loud noise causes permanent hearing loss. Because audiologists are concerned with the prevention of hearing loss, they are often involved in implementing programs to protect the hearing of individuals who are exposed to noisy industrial and recreational situations.
- Hearing Research
Audiologists engage in a wide variety of research activities to develop new hearing assessment techniques and new rehabilitative technologies, particularly in the area of hearing aids. Research reports of audiologists can be found in the professional literature of medical and scientific journals. Audiologists write textbooks on hearing evaluation, hearing aids and the management of people with hearing loss. Audiologists help develop professional standards and are represented on the boards of national and government agencies.
Center on Human Development and Disability,
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