Audiologists are health care professionals who possess expertise in non-medical diagnosis and management of disorders pertaining to the auditory and balance system. An easy way to remember the difference between the two is that Audiologists are essentially ear specialists. These healthcare professionals focus on problems associated with hearing, ear-related issues, or other balance concerns associated with the ears.
These ear and hearing specialists focus and specialize in the middle and inner ear: the cochlea and the vestibular system. They identify and assess hearing and balance disorders and rehabilitate patients who suffer from such disorders. In addition to these, Audiologists also serve people by preventing hearing loss.
Audiologists collaborate with other medical specialists who are concerned with disorders of the auditory and balance systems such as speech-language pathologists, allied health care professionals and technicians.
Audiologists typically focus on assessing and then treating the hearing problems associated with individuals who are struggling with loss of hearing or balance concerns. Even though it sounds like their role as a healthcare professional is limited to just hearing or balance issues, there are plenty of other responsibilities that Audiologists are responsible for.
Being responsible for the fitting of hearing aids and determining the patient’s need for assistive devices are also very important part of the jobs of an Audiologist. One of the key responsibilities of an Audiologist is to conduct effective hearing tests if they have a hearing complaint or balance concerns due to a disorder within the ear canal.
Hearing tests are essentially broken down into two parts for the patient, and help the Audiologist evaluate what is going on with the ear.
• Auditory Test — An Auditory Test is a basic test that helps you evaluate whether or not a person can hear and then evaluate the speech that they hear. Part of the Auditory Test is to ask if they can hear basic sounds or words, and then repeat those simple words back. This helps the Audiologist evaluate whether or not they can properly annunciate their vocabulary because they cannot hear properly.
Another thing that Audiologists check as a part of the Auditory Test is whether they can distinguish different words when they are spoken at the same time in different ears.
This helps the Audiologist narrow down whether or not there is a hearing issue in one ear or in both ears.
• Ear Drum Mobility — The Ear Drum Mobility test is used to evaluate whether or not the middle ear is functioning properly and evaluate how well sound is traveling from the ear canal. If there is something wrong with the eardrum.
Audiologists have the ability to specialize in an area of interest as well. Like other healthcare professionals, Audiologists who specialize in something have the ability to provide more expertise in a particular area. Some specialized audiologists can effectively teach communication strategies and help in speech reading.
In industrial audiology, audiologists are tasked with the responsibility of creating a hearing conservation program for employees.These two different specializations highlight how the responsibilities of an Audiologist might differ throughout one job to the next throughout your career as an Audiologist.
Another key responsibility for Audiologists is to discuss some of the symptoms or disorders that a patient might be suffering from. To accurately discuss disorders or ailments with each patient, an Audiologist has to understand all the potential concerns or ailments that a patient might be experiencing, what could be causing them, and how best to put the patient on the path to proper health.
An Audiologist is tasked with explaining and communicating in a way that the patient will understand and not feel overwhelmed with the information they are providing them. After informing the patient, they are then tasked with documenting all the important information in the proper medical records and patient records.
The extensive medical records and patient records are used to track treatment plans and then use that information for evaluating previous treatment plans and care outlook.
Another responsibility that Audiologists have is to counsel their patients regarding their treatment and the potential disorders they might be facing. As a healthcare professional, you have to be able to evaluate whether or not patients are experiencing some concerns or stress associated with their diagnosis. Losing one’s hearing or dealing with some auditory issues are causes for emotional stress, and Audiologists have to be able to identify the telltale signs.
Once you identify those signs as an Audiologist, you have to be able to walk them through the treatment pathway and provide some counseling for them. For instance, they might get really worried about their condition and start to stress out extensively, when in reality the condition is a minor condition and is easily managed and there is no stress that needs to be worried over in the long run.
In addition, as an Audiologist you should be prepared to forward those patients on to the proper care officials if they need some additional counseling or mental health support for the worry or stress that they are currently facing or experiencing.
Part of the counseling that Audiologists provide is between the patient and their family members, and discussing ways to improve communication. When a patient’s hearing is beginning to fail, one of the best ways to communicate with one another is to read lips or communicate through various forms of technology. These are temporary solutions for communication until a better treatment option can be evaluated and then implemented.
When an Audiologist counsels a patient about their hearing loss and tells them that they need to communicate in new ways, it can be rather stressful for them and cause frustration and heartache. Part of your role as an Audiologist is to provide guidance to them in these difficult periods and assist them in coping with their current situation.
Audiologists are tasked with collaborating with other healthcare professionals regarding the patients under their care to ensure that there are no miscommunications that might occur while one patient receives care from multiple caretakers.
Another core responsibility of Audiologists is to conduct research. Depending on the role of the Audiologist, and the facility they are working in — Research might be the largest chunk of your day, or it can be a small component of your routine. As an Audiologist, part of the researcher that you conduct will be centered around finding better care techniques that can be used by other healthcare professionals in the field.
In addition, Audiologists are conducting research to evaluate potential ways to prevent hearing disorders or hearing loss. Part of the research is clinical in nature, where you might have a set of patients who are willing to engage in new procedures to evaluate whether or not a new technique is going to speed up care or reduce hearing loss.
There are also plenty of other research things that you can conduct in both a clinical setting and an educational setting. From an educational standpoint, you can research and then apply that knowledge by educating the future Audiologists in the healthcare industry. The healthcare industry is always looking for Audiologists who are willing to return to their educational roots to train the next generation of Audiologists. An Audiologist who has experience can provide more value than ever to the future generation of Audiologists.
If you’re interested in working with patients and educating the new workforce, then you can rest assured knowing that there are plenty of career options that become available as an Audiologist.
Audiologists must also be comfortable using all the tools at their disposal to accurately diagnose and evaluate patients who are suffering from a variety of conditions. Because the healthcare industry is constantly changing, Audiologists have to be prepared to adapt their techniques and methods to implement the new care methods and new tools that make diagnosing and treatment that much more efficient and reliable. Part of staying apprised of all the changes that the healthcare industry might be going through includes taking continuing education credits.
These continuing education credits ensure that Audiologists are able to stay up to date on modern care techniques. This is an important responsibility for Audiologists because they are directly responsible for ordering and maintaining the equipment that is used by Audiologists on a daily basis.
Audiologists are responsible for helping patients who are currently experiencing health issues associated with the ear canal and identify, assess, and then treat hearing issues and balance disorders.
Audiologists will also determine various treatment goals based upon the patient’s goals and then administer the treatment. Another core responsibility of Audiologists is to fit and then provide the hearing aid to patients suffering from hearing issues.
Their overall responsibilities include:
There are several activities that you will frequently do as an Audiologist. These common activities help provide a glimpse of what your daily routine will consist of so you can determine whether or not you want to become an Audiologist.
• Examine Ear
The most frequent activity that an Audiologist conducts on a daily basis is examine the ear canal and evaluate whether or not the ear canal is damaged or obstructed. Some of the hearing issues that a patient experiences are a result of the ear canal being obstructed.
• Clean the Ear Canal
Another common activity is to then clear the ear canal once you find an obstruction to determine whether or not there is damage to the inner ear canal.
• Provide Counseling and Education
Because the inner ear canal and hearing is a foreign subject to nearly every single person, one important daily activity of your job is to provide counseling and education to patients that are less familiar with the Audiology subjects. Part of the counseling that you will be providing is to just keep an open line of communication to let them know that you’re more than willing to answer any questions they might have. Frequently, patients will forget to ask questions until later or will realize that they don’t quite understand something that was explained to them.
• Evaluate Treatment Options
Once you have evaluated whether or not the patient is suffering from hearing loss or balance issues, you will then come up with a list of treatment option. Part of evaluating the treatment options involve educating the patient about the various timelines, side effects, or concerns associated with each.
Different treatment methods will be more effective or will provide the patient with more confidence and you have to take into consideration what their wishes are. Once you evaluate the treatment options, you then have to convey that information to the patient and select the best treatment option for them with their input.
• Examine Patients To Identify Other Physical Conditions
In many cases, there are plenty of things we do that lead to the eventual hearing loss that we suffer from. Sometimes it might be listening to too much music at a loud volume. If that’s the case, you will be identifying various physical conditions that might be causing a patient’s hearing loss or balance issues — and then taking steps to remedy those situations that could potentially be aiding in the hearing loss.
• Train and Collaborate with Other Medical Providers
Another part of working as an Audiologist is training and collaborating with other medical providers that directly interact with patients in the Audiology department. Part of the training will revolve around making sure they properly handle the hearing devices and technology associated with hearing loss and also learn how to make quick fixes with little hassle.
• Supervise Other Patient Care Personnel
After you’ve trained the other healthcare professionals that you will be working with, part of your daily activities will be to supervise those care professionals under you. Your role will be to ensure that they are following the proper rules and procedures, and working with patients appropriately and providing effective care.
Audiologists can work in health care facilities, educational institutions and in government agencies. Other roles where you might work as an Audiologist include Audiology offices, private practices, Speech Therapist offices, or in education. Audiologists are known to have a working schedule that demands 40 to 50 hours of work per week. Part-time working schedules are also an option. Some Audiologists are asked to work irregular hours like weekends and evenings to accommodate based on their patient needs.
Depending on your role and the facility you’re working in as an Audiologist, your irregular hours might also stem from clinical rotations. The nature of your role will also largely change the number of hours that you work and the working conditions you experience.
Audiologists frequently work as part of healthcare team, including speech-language pathologists, scientists, technicians, educators, and others, in order to devise the most effective approach to managing patient conditions. It’s important to remember that you are part of a collaborative environment as an Audiologist, and your working conditions will mostly revolve around interacting with other healthcare professionals to treat patients and come up with the best solutions for the problems that patients face.
As an Audiologist, you might have the ability to be self-employed or work from home in a consultation role as you travel from one facility or hospital to the next.
If you're interested in learning what it takes to become an Audiologist, or want to find out how to become an Audiologist, check out our extensive and comprehensive Audiologist Career Path guide.
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