Join The Conversation

Audiologist or Hearing Aid Specialist? What's the Difference?

audiologist and hearing instrument specialist

If you think you might be developing a condition with your auditory system, like hearing loss, then it's essential to know to what kind of professional you should visit. But which type of hearing professional is the most suitable? 

The hearing health professional that you choose depends on the nature of your condition and your present needs. 

If you have investigated the issue online, you may have come across two distinct types of hearing health professionals: audiologists and hearing aid specialists. But what's the difference? And in what ways can each help you? 

What you need to know about audiologists

Audiologists are highly trained medical professionals who have completed an undergraduate degree in medicine and then earn a graduate degree in audiology. Audiologists have expertise in all issues involving your auditory system, including hearing loss, tinnitus and balance problems. 

Additionally, audiologists have specialized training to deal with hearing loss issues in any age group. It can be difficult, for instance, to diagnose hearing loss in babies and infants. You can't ask them whether they can hear sounds or not. Audiologists are trained to use special techniques to examine childhood hearing loss professionally and provide treatment options. 

Audiologists typically have around eight years of post-secondary education: four years at college and then a further four years at graduate school focusing on audiology. At the end of the training, audiologists must take a formal examination before the state grants them a license to practice. Furthermore, audiologists can only retain their licenses if they regularly do top-up training and stay up to date. Thus, if you visit an audiologist, you have peace of mind that they are offering state-of-the-art advice and treatment. 

Check out some of these interesting facts about audiologists: 

  • Audiologists typically have around 1,800 hours of training before becoming qualified
  • Audiologists regularly work in medical institutions or private practices
  • Audiologists treat all conditions to do with the ear, including balance issues
  • Audiologists can diagnose hearing loss and provide treatment
  • Audiologists have eight years of post-secondary training or more
  • Audiologists can recommend, fit, clean and repair hearing aids.

What you need to know about hearing aid specialists

A hearing aid specialist, or hearing instrument specialist, is somebody who has a license to provide advice to people for fitting hearing aids. The primary role of a hearing aid specialist is to check that the hearing aid fits correctly and that it is set up for the patient. They cannot diagnose or offer treatment for hearing loss or any other condition. 

Just like audiologists, hearing instrument specialists have to undergo training. The amount of education they need varies by state. Some states require that hearing instrument specialists have a high school diploma while others insist on at least two years of college. 

Hearing instrument specialists often have to do distance learning or coursework and then pass an exam to qualify. States only grant licenses to people who pass the exam. 

Hearing instrument specialists typically have less training than audiologists. Their role is much more limited. A hearing instrument specialist will only provide advice and assistance in the fitting of hearing aids. They cannot diagnose or treat any condition. 

Here are some quick facts about hearing aid specialists: 

  • Hearing aid specialists can work in their own practice or in a larger store that offers hearing services
  • Hearing aid specialists are certified to fit hearing aids
  • A hearing instrument specialist cannot diagnose hearing or balance conditions
  • Some hearing instrument specialists conduct tests to find out whether hearing aids are working correctly. 

Speak with an audiologist if you suspect hearing loss

If you haven't been diagnosed with hearing loss yet but think that you may have the condition, then it's best to speak with your audiologist. Remember, only audiologists have the training to diagnose, treat and monitor hearing health conditions. 

Audiologists have a range of tools, tests, and techniques that they use to find out the nature of your hearing loss and remedy it. Sometimes, your hearing loss is the result of something easily reversed, like impacted earwax. Most often, you will need to have hearing aids to address your hearing loss.  

Audiologists can also help you select and fit hearing aids. Going to an audiologist for help with a hearing aid can be very beneficial, especially if it's your first fitting. Audiologists consult with you on the type of hearing aids that you might need for your lifestyle, preferences, and kind of hearing loss. 

If you'd like to learn about how our trained audiologists can help you, get in touch with HEARINC at 234-347-0155 to find out more.