Your Guide to Becoming an Audiologist

Last updated: May 29, 2024
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Eleana Bowman
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Your Guide to Becoming an Audiologist
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Twenty-two million Americans are exposed to hazardous noise levels in the workplace, and 48 million already have some degree of hearing loss. As more and more people recognize the importance of hearing health, the demand for audiologists and hearing specialists will only grow.

Audiologists play a crucial role in helping people with hearing and balance disorders. Their job directly affects patients’ quality of life, career stability, and more.

As an audiologist, you’ll work with cutting-edge technology and constantly learn new techniques and concepts. This is an exciting path, but it also requires commitment.

Let’s dive into how to become an audiologist and what you should know before embarking on this journey.

What do audiologists do?

Audiologists diagnose and treat hearing problems and balance disorders. They work with individuals of all ages, from infants to the elderly, and they have a wider scope of medical practice than audiometrists.

Patients visit audiologists to manage tinnitus, hearing loss, vertigo, and other common problems.

The typical job duties of an audiologist include the following:

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  • Conducting diagnostic tests. Audiologists use various tests and technologies to measure hearing sensitivity, assess speech comprehension, and determine the type and degree of hearing loss or balance disorder.

  • Determining the right diagnosis. After conducting their initial tests, audiologists interpret the results and provide detailed explanations to patients and their families regarding the nature and implications of the issue.

  • Developing treatment plans. Audiologists consider the cause and severity of the hearing loss and the patient’s communication needs, lifestyle, and preferences to determine the best treatment options.

  • Providing cochlear implant services. This includes the evaluation, selection, programming, and fine-tuning of cochlear implants.

  • Prescribing and fitting hearing aids. Audiologists select and fit appropriate hearing aids for their patients and provide guidance on their use, care, and maintenance.

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  • Conducting auditory rehabilitation. Audiologists help patients adapt to hearing loss and improve their communication abilities through auditory training and lip-reading techniques.

  • Collaborating with other professionals. Audiologists often work together with other healthcare professionals, such as physicians, speech-language pathologists, and occupational therapists, to come up with treatment plans for patients.

Audiology is a meaningful and rewarding field — these professionals help people rediscover communication and lead more comfortable, joyful lives as a result.

This is also one of those rare professions that allow you to work in healthcare without requiring a medical degree.

What’s the job outlook for audiologists?

Noise pollution is a major concern for many, as it can lead to sleep disturbance and hearing problems. Prolonged and excessive exposure to loud music also puts over 1 billion young people at risk of hearing loss. This means hearing loss specialists are needed now more than ever.

Employment of audiologists is projected to grow by 10% from 2021 to 2031. About 800 openings for audiologists are projected each year until at least that time.

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Audiologists usually work in hospitals, audiology clinics, educational institutions, pediatric clinics, the military, hearing aid manufacturers and suppliers, and hearing rehabilitation centers. Later on, you can pick a different path — perhaps switching to working exclusively with professional musicians.

This job provides some flexibility. As an audiologist, you’ll be able to work part-time if you wish. This can help you get experience in different facilities or allocate time for side projects.

Looking for a career change? Start your search today on Jobcase’s job board.

How much do audiologists earn?

The average audiologist salary in the US is $90,841. This estimate will vary, however, depending on where you work and the state in which you are employed.

Here are a few regions where audiologists can earn well above average:

  • District of Columbia

  • California

  • North Dakota

  • Wyoming

  • Colorado

The highest-paying audiologists are usually those who work directly for hearing aid manufacturers. You can also earn good money working in a well-established private practice. But the best way for an audiologist to drastically boost their income is through hearing aid sales commissions.

Is becoming an audiologist right for you?

Rest assured that you don’t need to have perfect hearing to get into this profession. It’s possible to become an audiologist even if you’ve had significant hearing loss.

However, you do need to have a strong knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and general physics, as well as the following:

  • Strong diagnostic skills. You’ll need to be able to interpret test results accurately and work with patients across the entire spectrum of hearing ability.

  • Knowledge of audiology equipment. You’ll use audiometers, tympanometers, Otoacoustic Emission (OAE) systems, hearing aid software, and other specialized tools. This means you’ll need to be somewhat tech-savvy and willing to learn.

  • Patient communication and counseling skills. This job involves a lot of talking, listening, and repetition, and you’ll need to be highly attentive and observant with each of your patients.

  • Critical thinking. Your goal as an audiologist will be to offer the best hearing aid solution or treatment plan for your patients. This calls for a highly personalized and analytical approach.

  • Sales skills. Many audiologists make a living by selling hearing aids, which can be challenging for some as not everyone has a strong sales ability.

  • Lifelong learning. The field of hearing loss treatment is constantly evolving, so you should be committed to staying updated with the latest developments in the field.

  • Attention to detail and documentation. Attention to detail is crucial, as you’ll need to accurately document and update patient information to ensure continuity of care.

Being an audiologist is often described as being low-stress, but some may still find it emotionally draining. Diagnosing hearing loss, especially in small children, can lead to long-term frustration due to how dramatically this issue affects patients’ lives. You’ll need a great deal of empathy and a positive attitude to help your visitors regain their confidence and work toward a successful outcome.

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Steps to become an audiologist

Here’s a list of the steps you’ll need to take to become an audiologist:

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree

There are several bachelor’s degrees you can pursue for a career in audiology:

  • Communication Sciences and Disorders. This degree focuses on the study of normal and disordered communication processes, including speech, language, and hearing. If you choose this program, you’ll likely have an easier time completing your doctoral program.

  • Speech and Hearing Sciences. This degree covers relevant topics such as speech production, language development, auditory anatomy, and physiology.

  • Biology or Pre-Medical Sciences. Each of these degrees provides a strong scientific background in anatomy, physiology, and neuroscience, which are helpful for understanding the auditory system and related disorders.

  • Psychology. Psychology courses will help you develop strong communication skills and understand human behavior and cognition, topics that are relevant to psychoacoustics and auditory perception.

Make sure to do your research, as your audiology program of choice may have some unique prerequisite course requirements.

2. Complete a doctoral degree in audiology

You’ll need to complete a doctoral degree in audiology to work as a licensed audiologist in the United States. The Doctor of Audiology (AuD) degree has become the standard entry-level degree for the audiology profession.

The AuD program typically takes around four years to complete. Here’s a quick breakdown of what it contains:

  1. Foundational coursework, which covers essential topics such as the anatomy and physiology of the auditory system, audiology diagnostics, hearing science, auditory rehabilitation, pediatric audiology, and vestibular assessment.

  2. Clinical practicum experiences, which provide students with hands-on training in various clinical settings, such as hospitals, clinics, and educational institutions.

  3. Research and evidence-based practice courses, which teach students how to critically evaluate scientific literature and apply research findings to inform their clinical decision-making.

  4. Advanced diagnostic and rehabilitation technique courses, which allow students to master audiological tests and learn to work with hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other assistive listening devices.

  5. Professional ethics and practice management lectures, which cover ethical guidelines, patient confidentiality, reimbursement systems, documentation, and the legal aspects of audiology practice.

3. Obtain state licensure

New AuD graduates must obtain a license to practice audiology. The specific requirements for licensure vary by state, but they typically involve passing a standardized exam, such as the Audiology Praxis Exam, and completing a certain number of supervised clinical hours.

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Once you’ve met the educational, clinical, and examination requirements, you will need to submit an application for licensure to the appropriate licensing board or regulatory body. This application typically includes providing documentation of your education, clinical training, examination scores, and any additional requirements specified by your local licensing board.

4. Gain clinical experience

Some hospitals and audiology clinics offer postgraduate residency programs in audiology. These programs provide structured, supervised training for newly graduated audiologists. Participating in them will enable you to work closely with experienced professionals and gain exposure to a wide range of cases.

A fellowship program is another great way to gain advanced clinical experience and contribute to research projects under the mentorship of established experts. Fellowship programs target newly graduated audiologists and are typically offered in academic or research settings.

5. Specialize or obtain advanced certification (optional)

In the US, you aren’t obliged to obtain certification to practice as an audiologist. However, many audiologists choose to pursue voluntary certification to demonstrate their expertise and commitment.

The most commonly recognized certifications for audiologists in the US are offered by the American Board of Audiology (ABA) and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

You’ll need to meet certain eligibility criteria to get certified. For instance, you’ll need specific education, clinical experience requirements, and examination scores.

As a licensed audiologist, you can also pursue more niche and in-demand clinical specializations, such as pediatric audiology, intraoperative monitoring, cochlear implants, tinnitus management, or vestibular sciences.

FAQs about audiologists

What is the difference between an audiologist and a hearing aid specialist?

Audiologists have a broader scope of practice and expertise. They evaluate and manage hearing and balance disorders using various diagnostic methods and are qualified to provide a wide range of services beyond hearing aids. Hearing aid specialists, on the other hand, focus specifically on the selection, fitting, and maintenance of hearing aids.

What degrees are best for audiology?

The AuD degree is the most common and preferred degree for those pursuing a career in audiology. It’s a professional clinical doctorate that provides the necessary knowledge and skills to become a licensed audiologist. As for a bachelor’s degree, you can choose between biology, psychology, communication sciences, or speech and hearing sciences.

How do I become a successful audiologist?

If you want to do well as an audiologist, choose your specialization early on, and work in private practices or directly for hearing aid manufacturers. This will help you get higher-than-average pay and greater recognition.

How long does it take to become an audiologist?

The path to becoming an audiologist generally takes around seven to eight years, including undergraduate studies and the AuD program. If you already have a relevant bachelor’s degree, it should only take you three to four years. You will be required to complete a certain number of clinical practicum hours — typically 1,800 to 2,000.

Start your journey to become an audiologist today

Audiology is a great field to consider if you’re interested in learning more about the issues that lead to hearing loss. Or maybe you have a background in music and sound design and want to make a career pivot. Whatever the case, remember that you don’t need a medical degree to become an audiologist in the US.

On the other hand, keep in mind that audiology programs can get quite expensive. Also, most jobs in audiology are tied to hearing aid sales — that’s just the nature of the profession. That said, you can always find a niche that is more patient-centric.

Join the Jobcase community and get ready for your next job interview! Our Getting Hired Resource Center offers lots of information for job seekers, and you can even use it to make valuable connections with others in the same boat as you.

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