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

Your journey to better hearing begins by choosing a hearing professional you can trust. But where do you turn?  Your friend who wears hearing devices recommends his audiologist.  However, a local Hearing Aid Specialist is advertising hearing devices at a very good price. Who do you choose? How do you make that decision? And what is the difference between an audiologist and a Hearing Aid Specialist?

That’s a question our patients often ask and the answer is directly related to the level of education each profession requires and the area of specialization that results.

An audiologist is a certified and licensed professional who has earned a Master’s Degree (M.S.) or Doctoral Degree (Au.D./Ph.D.) in the field of audiology. Typically, this level of advanced education requires six to eight years of study to complete.

Certified both nationally and by the state, audiologists are licensed to practice by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Board and are trained to diagnose and treat disorders of hearing and balance. They can perform comprehensive hearing evaluations, fit hearing devices, recommend assistive listening devices (ALDs) and counsel patients and their families in communication and listening strategies.

While most hearing loss is caused by nerve damage and can be treated by an audiologist who recommends hearing devices, medically-based hearing loss must be treated by an Ear, Nose or Throat doctor (ENT). Medically-based Audiology, which is what we provide at {Member Name}, means Ear, Nose and Throat Physicians are on site to provide comprehensive care, including medication and/or surgery, should your hearing loss be due to a medical condition.

Comparatively, a Hearing Instrument Specialist or Dispenser must have completed high school, or, in some states, possess a two year degree. In addition, Hearing Instrument Specialists must pass a written and practical exam to become licensed by the State in which they practice.  Hearing Instrument Specialists may also pass a national exam and become Board Certified Hearing Instrument Specialists (BC-HIS) through the National Hearing Instrument Society. They are trained in the interpretation of hearing assessment instrumentation, hearing devices electronics, specifications and programming hearing devices.

The primary difference between an Audiologist and a Hearing Instrument Specialist is that the Audiologist has an advanced degree and is an expert in all aspects of hearing healthcare, including the fitting of hearing devices, while the Hearing Aid Specialist has a high school or two-year degree and has received training and passed their state examination for the dispensing of hearing devices only. We recommend when choosing a hearing healthcare professional you get the highest standards possible and choose an Audiologist you can trust. Be smart about your decision.  Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been registered about the provider you are considering.  Contact your state to validate whether or not professional licenses are current. Ask friends and families for referrals. You will be glad you did your homework!