What Does an Audiologist Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Doctor Performing Hearing Test With Otoscope
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Audiologists diagnose and treat hearing and balance disorders. They use various instruments to measure hearing loss and to determine its cause. After making a diagnosis, the audiologist develops a treatment plan that takes into account the impact the disability is having on the patient. Audiologists are often members of a team of health professionals that includes speech pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and physicians.

About 14,800 audiologists worked in the U.S. in 2016. Most of them work in doctors' offices, but many also work in audiology clinics and hospitals. Schools employ some audiologists as well.

Audiologist Duties & Responsibilities

Audiologists' responsibilities can depend on where they work, but some common duties include:

  • Examine and assess patients with ear problems, diagnosing the root of problems.
  • Determine and administer the treatment most likely to address and correct the problem.
  • Counsel patients in dealing with their hearing difficulties.
  • Fit patients with hearing aids and instruct them in the operation of the devices, as well as their abilities and uses.
  • Teach patients alternate forms of communication, such as sign language and lip reading.
  • Monitor treatment of patients for progress or problems.
  • Maintain records of treatment and progress.

    Some audiologists specialize in treating the elderly or young children, or in areas of community education.

    Audiologist Salary

    Audiologists working in hospitals are the most highly compensated.

    • Median Annual Salary: $75,920 ($36.50/hour)
    • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $117,910 ($56.69/hour)
    • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $52,300 ($25.14/hour)

    Education, Training & Certification

    This profession requires advanced education.

    • Education: You'll need a Doctor of Audiology degree (Au.D.). This usually takes four years after first earning a bachelor's degree. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) suggests that a candidate's undergraduate education should consist of a strong "arts and sciences focus...with coursework in linguistics, phonetics, psychology, speech and hearing, mathematics, biological sciences, physical sciences, and social sciences."
    • Licensure: Visit the ASHA website to see a state-by-state directory of licensing requirements and contact information. All 50 states have licensure requirements for audiologists.

    Audiologist Skills & Competencies

    In addition to your formal training, you'll need certain soft skills, or personal qualities, to succeed in this field.

    • Verbal communication skills: You must be able to convey information such as test results or a recommendation for equipment or treatment to your patients. You must also communicate well with your colleagues.
    • Compassion: It's important that your patients feel that you care about their well-being.
    • Interpersonal skills: You must be able to establish rapport with patients and make them feel comfortable.
    • Critical-thinking skills: Critical-thinking skills will allow you to compare various treatment options and predict which one will have the best outcome.

      Job Outlook

      Job growth for this profession is very good, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, at about 21% from 2016 through 2016. This is much better than the national average for all occupations.

      This is a small profession, however, and 21% of 15,000 jobs is still significantly less than 21% of 150,000 jobs. The BLS estimates that only about 3,100 new jobs will open up in this decade.

      Work Environment

      This is not necessarily stationary work. Audiologists can travel between locations, administering services at various facilities, such as at multiple schools within a district. It's suitable for those who are people-oriented. You won't always be working with just patients, but with nurses, assistants, physicians, and other healthcare workers as well.

      Work Schedule

      Most jobs are full-time positions and sometimes include weekend and evening hours to accommodate patients' schedules. About 20% of audiologists worked more than 40 hours in 2016.

      How to Get the Job

      DO YOUR RESEARCH

      Not all graduate programs are created equal. Do a bit of research before you choose one because some states won't give licenses to individuals who haven't graduated from an audiology program that's accredited by The Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA). 

      CONSIDER ALTERNATE CERTIFICATION

      You can also get certified by the American Board of Audiologists (ABA). This voluntary certification stipulates that applicants must have a doctorate and pass a national exam. ABA also offers specialty certifications in cochlear implants and pediatric audiology.

      Comparing Similar Jobs

      Some similar jobs and their median annual pay include: