There are approximately 13,000 audiologists working in the United States. Job growth statistics indicate that this work will increase 25% over the next decade; this is far faster than other jobs. In part, this is due to aging baby boomers who are experiencing problems with hearing and balance. While the projected increase in jobs is extremely high, other factors may make securing a position difficult. The field is relatively small, and audiologists do not tend to leave their employment.
The two largest employers of audiologists are healthcare facilities, which employ over 60% of all audiologists, and educational services that employ about 15% of all audiologists. Audiologists are licensed by every state, although the requirements vary from state to state. A master’s degree in audiology is status quo; however, doctoral degrees are becoming more and more common among new graduates. Applicants who have earned an Au.D. degree will be more employable.
Audiologists work with individuals with inner ear, balance, and hearing problems.
- Children, adults, and seniors can all be afflicted. After diagnosing the nature of a problem, audiologists assess the best form of treatment and teach patients how to manage it.
- Testing devices such as audiometers, as well as specially designed computer applications, are used to determine the point at which the patient’s ability to recognize sound begins and to discriminate similar sounds.
- Computer equipment is also used to assess balance disorders. A full diagnosis and treatment decision will involve the doctor’s interpretation of the results in conjunction with medical, educational, and psychological components.
Some of the causes of hearing loss or disorder include birth trauma, infections, genetic disorders, over-exposure to extreme noise, certain medications, or aging. In addition to cleaning the ear canal and examining it for infection, growths, or other irregularities, audiologists fit hearing aids as well as cochlear implants. These doctors also teach patients to care for their equipment, and they provide useful strategies in a range of environments in which communication is difficult. Amplification systems that serve a large area and devices designed to alert patients in an emergency are also dispensed by audiologists.
- Careful records must be kept from the initial visit through patient discharge. Audiologists may also work with medical staff, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and educational personnel as a team participant. This is especially common for the treatment of balance disorders.
- Some audiologists perform a range of tasks including examinations, diagnostics, and the dispensing of medication. Others specialize in age groups, types of hearing or balance disorders, or the designing of hearing protection equipment for workers in loud environments.
- Those in private practice must oversee business operations, record keeping, ordering supplies, and billing. Audiologist researchers investigate new treatments, theories, and related disorders.
- The work environment for audiologists is very clean, climate controlled, well organized, and well-lit. Careful attention to detail is important, as is sensitivity to the emotions of patients. Many audiologists work in excess of 40 hours a week. Some work at a number of facilities as a contract employee.
At minimum, a master’s degree is required for state licensing. Many states are moving toward requiring a doctoral degree with nearly 40% of all states currently requiring a doctoral degree for new applicants. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA) accredits audiology programs, as does the American Board of Audiology. Many states require candidates graduate from an accredited program in order to be granted a license. Continuing education is also required in many cases. Courses focus on diagnosis and treatment; anatomy and physiology; genetics; communication development; auditory, balance, and neural systems assessment; pharmacology; and medical ethics. Graduate students participate in clinical internships under close supervision.
- There are a number of ways audiologists can advance their careers. Some turn to private practice, others accept managerial or supervisory positions at a hospital. Others run research labs or work for manufacturers designing increasingly smaller and better constructed hearing aids.
The median annual salary for audiologists is approximately $63,000. Those in the middle 50% of the pay continuum earn between approximately $51,000 and $79,000. Those in the lowest 10% bracket earn less than $41,000, while those in the highest 10% earn close to $100,000. Approximately 15% of all audiologists belong to a union and are protected by a union contract. Many audiologists who work for hospitals, clinics, schools, and other facilities have employers who will pay for their continuing education so they can keep current about medical devices, discoveries, and medications that contribute to hearing and balance issues.