When someone asks me, “What is an Audiologist?” I often find the answer involves more than a brief description because the term Audiologist—when compared to other health professionals such as physiotherapists, optometrists, and dentists—is not well known. To help explain what an Audiologist does (hint: they don’t record music), I have answered the most commonly asked questions that I receive about Audiologists and what Audiology means.
Audiology, hearing and balance
An Audiologist is a health professional who specializes in the detection, diagnosis, and management of hearing and balance disorders.
They specialize in hearing and balance? Are those two things even related?
Yes! The inner ear, which is one part of the ear that an Audiologist will test, has two main components:
- The cochlea, which is our hearing organ
- The vestibular system, which plays an important role in balance
Certain conditions can affect both systems. By conducting a thorough case history and diagnostic evaluation, an Audiologist can determine if one or both systems are affected and what the next appropriate step is.
You mentioned the inner ear. Do Audiologists ever test other parts of the hearing system?
Yes, Audiologists routinely test other parts of the hearing system, which extends from the outer ear, all the way to the brain.
Can you explain a bit more about the different parts of the pathway?
You’ve gone over the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. Does the testing end there?
That sounds complicated. What is the minimum education required to become an Audiologist?
In Canada, the minimum education required to become an Audiologist is a master’s degree in Audiology, which includes at least 350 hours of supervised clinical practicum. To practice Audiology and dispense hearing aids in BC, Audiologists must pass a written and practical exam. They must also accumulate continuing education credits on a regular basis.
Do all Audiologists do the same work?
Good question! Like most healthcare professions, Audiology has become increasingly specialized over the years. While many Audiologists routinely perform diagnostic hearing evaluations, fit hearing aids, and provide aural rehabilitation, some will focus on a particular specialty. For example, there are Audiologists who specialize in tinnitus, the ringing/buzzing/hissing sound that some people get. Others focus on vestibular (balance) or sound sensitivity issues.
Where do Audiologists work?
- Hospitals and health units
- Private practice
- Hearing aid and cochlear implant manufacturers
- Professional associations and regulatory bodies
When should I see an Audiologist?
- If you or others have noticed a change in your hearing
- If your hearing is affecting your ability to participate, or how you participate, in day-to-day activities
- If things are not sounding as clear or sharp as they used to
- If you have tinnitus, especially if it is bothersome
- If you are sensitive to sounds that do not bother the average person
- If you have been unsuccessful with hearing aids or other amplifying devices
- If you want to better understand and manage your hearing loss, tinnitus, or sound sensitivity issues
Now you know what a professional Audiologist does! If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the symptoms described above – or if you are over the age of 60 and have not had your hearing tested in the last 3 years - call to schedule an appointment with one of our professional Audiologists at the Broadmead Hearing Clinic: 250-470-2926 or Oak Bay Hearing Clinic: 250-479-2921. Your hearing and balance will thank you!