What is an Audiologist?

Broadmead Hearing What is an Audiologist?


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:

  1. The cochlea, which is our hearing organ
  2. 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?

Let’s start with the outer ear. The outer ear begins with the pinna, which is the only part of the ear that can be seen without specialized equipment. A visual examination of the pinna will tell an Audiologist if there are any abnormalities that require a medical referral.
An otoscope, which is a visual device used to illuminate and magnify, is used to examine the rest of the outer ear, which includes the ear canal and stops before the eardrum. If a person has significant wax in the ear canal, it can often be removed by the Audiologist. 
The next part of the ear that an Audiologist will test is the middle ear. The middle ear includes the eardrum and the 3 tiny bones (malleus, incus, and stapes) that connect the eardrum to the inner ear. Testing the middle ear does not require active participation by the person being tested, which means it can be performed on people of all ages. If a hearing loss is caused by a middle ear issue, the person will often be referred to their physician or to an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist, who may be able to treat the hearing loss with medication or surgery. 
Testing of the inner ear involves multiple components. A basic screening test will determine what the softest sounds are that a person can detect. A diagnostic evaluation will also involve a person’s ability to understand speech in quiet and in background noise. These speech tests have important implications on how well a person will hear with hearing aids and what technology is appropriate for them.

You’ve gone over the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. Does the testing end there?

It depends on each person.
If somebody needs a hearing test as part of an application for a job, such as the RCMP, and does not report any hearing difficulties, a hearing screening will often suffice.
If the person reports tinnitus (more on that later) or sound sensitivity, a different test battery as well as evidence-based questionnaires will be used. 
Sometimes, a person will report significant hearing difficulties and will have a normal result on a diagnostic hearing evaluation. In these cases, the person is often referred for auditory processing testing, which is a thorough audiological test that determines how the brain processes sound.

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
  • Schools
  • Universities
  • 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!