“He’s a Transponster!” must be one of the best quotes from the Friends TV series. The question was, “What is Chandler Bing’s job?” Chandler Bing was one of the six main characters in the Friends series, and two of his closest friends were trying to name his occupation. As audiologists, we can sometimes relate…we know it is confusing to differentiate us from other hearing health-care providers.
Occupations have grown more and more specialized through the years and health-care occupations follow that specialized trend. Understanding health-care specialties can be challenging. We want to help you better understand the differences in those hearing health-care specialties to achieve your best care and best outcomes.
Here’s a breakdown of the specialties…
Audiologists are the primary health-care professionals who evaluate, diagnose, treat, and manage hearing loss and balance disorders in individuals of all ages from infants and teens to adults and the elderly.
Audiologists are trained to understand and program hearing aids, cochlear implants, assistive listening devices, bone-anchored hearing aids, and more. Audiologists are the only qualified professionals who can diagnose an individual with auditory processing disorder, or “hidden hearing loss.”
Audiologists work in many types of settings, including:
- Private practices
- ENT offices
- K-12 schools
- Veterans’ Administration (VA) hospitals
Most audiologists earn a doctor of audiology (AuD) degree. Some audiologists earn a doctor of philosophy (PhD) or doctor of science (ScD) degree in the hearing and balance sciences.
Audiologists must be licensed or registered for practice in all states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
Audiologists are also required to pursue continued education to stay updated on the latest hearing and balance health care and can also receive certification from the American Board of Audiology and specialty certification in pediatric audiology from the American Board of Audiology.
Some audiologists also further their education and credentials by obtaining certificates in tinnitus management audiology precepting through the American Board of Audiology.
According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, an otolaryngologist (more commonly known as an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor) is a physician with an expertise in conditions of the (you guessed it) ear, nose, and throat. However, their specialty also extends to other parts of the head and neck, including the sinuses and thyroid and conditions such as allergies and sleep apnea.
ENTs earn a doctor of medicine degree post bachelor’s degree. Medical school is followed by a five-year residency (according to Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis).
There are also ENTs who further specialize in ears. These physicians are called otologists or neurotologists. These specialists complete an additional two-year fellowship to train to treat more complex ear conditions and more complex ear surgeries. For instance, an otologist performs the surgical placement of the internal component of a cochlear implant.
Hearing Instrument Specialist/Hearing Aid Dispenser
According to the International Hearing Society, a hearing instrument specialist is a state-licensed hearing health professional trained to evaluate common types of hearing loss in adults and fit hearing aids. They are typically licensed to perform tasks related to hearing aid fittings, such as program hearing aids and make ear-mold impressions. Hearing instrument specialists do not diagnose hearing loss or hearing disorders and are not trained to diagnose and treat tinnitus, hyperacusis, auditory processing disorders, or other auditory cognitive processing skills.