Hearing care practitioners, also known as audiologists, perform thorough hearing evaluations to determine the type and severity of a patient’s hearing impairment. They determine the most beneficial hearing aid and recommend further treatments. Hearing instrument specialists conduct assessments to determine the best fit, and they dispense hearing aids. The Hearing Loss Association of America estimates that out of every 1,000 children, about two to three are deaf or hard of hearing, as of February 2014.
Hearing Care Practitioners
Hearing care practitioners test patients who have trouble with their balance, hearing or other ear problems. They analyze test results, make diagnoses, decide the best course of action and implement treatment plans. They may create, coordinate, oversee or conduct counseling programs for hard-of-hearing or deaf individuals. Some practitioners fabricate ear molds, offer speech reading and auditory training, and test patients for tinnitus.
Hearing Instrument Specialists
Hearing instrument specialists measure the fit of aids and conduct basic hearing tests to select, adapt and distribute the right hearing aid to each patient. They perform routine maintenance or repairs on hearing aids and create ear mold impressions. Hearing instrument specialists frequently work under audiologists’ direction where they may assist with complex procedures, such as cochlear implant mapping.
Roles and Goals
Hearing care practitioners and hearing instrument specialists need to be excellent communicators, in both in writing and speaking. They need dexterity in both hands and must be able to sit and stand for extended periods of time. A professional from either occupation is eligible to take a national competency exam to obtain a Board Certification in Hearing Instrument Sciences, which reflects the highest level of competency in hearing instrument dispensing.
Each state has its own requirements for licensing or certification of hearing instrument specialists, but they usually include a hearing instrument training program or a minimum of an associate’s level degree. Audiologists typically need a doctoral degree to obtain a state license, but some states allow master’s degree holders to apply. Hearing care practitioners can apply for a certification in audiology through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, but they must have a doctoral degree before applying.
Employment and Salary Factors
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 4,980 hearing aid specialists were employed as of May 2012, compared to the 12,060 employed audiologists. The BLS indicates that hearing aid specialists earn an average annual salary of $46,780 while audiologists make a mean wage of $72,890 each year, as of May 2012.
2016 Salary Information for Audiologists
Audiologists earned a median annual salary of $75,980 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, audiologists earned a 25th percentile salary of $61,370, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $94,170, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 14,800 people were employed in the U.S. as audiologists.