Individuals looking for hearing loss treatment face a number of challenges, including medical terms that may be unfamiliar and categories of health care professionals that may seem confusing. For instance, what is the difference between an audiologist and hearing aid dealers and fitters?
Ear Doctors, Audiologists, Hearing Aid Specialists — What’s the Difference?
The types of hearing care professionals you might encounter in seeking help with your hearing loss differ in both their education and their skills.
Audiologists and Doctors of Audiology
An audiologist is a licensed hearing health care professional who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss and balance disorders in adults and children. You can think of an audiologist primarily as a “hearing doctor.” Most audiologists have completed a doctor of audiology (Au.D.) degree along with 8 years education in an externship program, though there are other doctoral degrees within the field (Ph.D., Sc.D., and others). Audiologists typically offer the following services:
- Complete hearing exams
- Fitting, adjustment, and maintenance of hearing aids
- Treatment for balance disorders and tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Hearing and speech rehabilitation programs
Audiologists possess comprehensive knowledge of the human auditory and vestibular systems, and they have extensive training in sound reproduction, which is critical to the accurate fitting and adjustment of hearing aids.
Hearing Aid Dealers and Fitters
Hearing Aid Dealers and Fitters are licensed to engage in practices used for the purpose of selection, adaptation and sale of hearing aids. In the state of Oklahoma, the basic educational requirement for Hearing Aid Dealer and Fitter License is a high school diploma or its equivalent.
Additionally, Hearing instrument specialists are licensed in OK. Most states also require an apprenticeship or a specified period of practical experience before they are licensed.
Otolaryngologists are physicians (M.D.s or doctors of medicine) who specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases of the ears, nose, mouth, and throat. As opposed to an audiologist, who is more like a “hearing doctor,” you can think of an otolaryngologist as an “ear doctor.” Trained in both medicine and surgery, otolaryngologists typically treat the types of profound hearing loss that require pharmaceutical or surgical treatment, like a cochlear implant. These types of hearing loss include loss caused by trauma, infection, or benign tumors in the ear.
After completing a medical course of treatment, otolaryngologists often refer patients to an audiologist for the prescription and fitting of digital hearing aids or counseling to help redevelop communication and language recognition skills.