Audiology Career Overview
Audiologists deal with balance, hearing, and other ear-related disorders. After examining and identifying balance, auditory, and various neural problems, audiologists evaluate the severity of a patient’s problem. Testing devices such as computers and audiometers allow audiologists to determine which sounds a patient hears, the volume at which a patient can hear sounds, and the impact of balance problems or hearing loss on their patient’s daily life. Diagnosis and treatment is determined as the audiologist interprets the test results and consults psychological and medical research.
The causes of hearing disorders can range from exposure to loud noise, viral infections, trauma at birth, aging, certain medications, or genetic disorders. Dispensing hearing aids, fitting and tuning cochlear implants, and cleaning ear canals are various treatments audiologists provide. Audiologic rehabilitation is another treatment used which includes teaching communication strategies, counseling to cope and adjust to hearing loss, and training to use a variety of hearing instruments.
By keeping records on the first evaluation, progress, and release of each patient, audiologists track patient progress, identify specific problems, and validate the price of treatments to insurance companies. Audiologists often work in teams with other healthcare professionals to implement and plan the treatment for their patients. Some also work independently to develop and execute treatment programs for their patients.
Audiologists often research different kinds of balance and hearing disorders as well as new treatments. Other audiologists create techniques and equipment for the treatment and diagnosing of these disorders.
In 2002, there were 11,000 audiologists practicing in the U.S. Over 50% of these audiologists worked in hospitals, outpatient care centers, doctors’ offices, or in offices of health practitioners. Other audiologists worked for local and State governments, scientific research and development, personal care and health stores, and in educational services such as elementary and secondary schools. A small number of audiologists are self-employed with private practices. They work under contract for establishments such as healthcare facilities and schools, as well as provide hearing healthcare for their own offices.
Audiology Training and Job Qualifications
In order to practice audiology in the U.S., a license as well as a master’s degree in audiology is generally required. A national audiology examination given by the Praxis Series of the Educational Testing Service must be passed. Postgraduate professional clinical experience and up to 375 hours of supervised clinical experience is also necessary. For license renewal, forty states require continued education. To distribute hearing aids, an audiologist must pass an additional examination.
Graduate programs in audiology are offered by over 100 colleges and universities in the U.S. Close to forty of these institutions also offer a doctorate degree in Audiology. A wide range of courses are essential for admission to audiology graduate programs including communication sciences, biology, English, chemistry, physics, psychology, and mathematics. Once admitted to a program, areas of study includes diagnosis and treatment; physiology; normal and abnormal communication development; anatomy; genetics; ethics; balance, auditory, and neural systems treatment and assessment; physics; and pharmacology.
The American Board of Audiology also offers certification. To achieve this certification, applicants must pass the national examination in audiology, complete an audiology Master’s or Doctoral degree from an accredited university or college, and have at least 2,000 professional mentoring hours spent with a qualified audiologist over a two year period. This certification must be renewed every three years by completing 45 hours of continuing education. As of 2007, a doctoral degree in audiology will be required for certification.
Audiology professionals should be able to effectively communicate diagnostic test results, diagnoses, and proposed treatments in a manner easily understood by their clients. They must be able to approach problems objectively and provide support to clients and their families. Because a client’s progress may be slow, patience, compassion, and good listening skills are necessary.
Certain skills are necessary to be an effective audiologist. An audiologist must have good listening skills, patience, and compassion because patient progress is often slow. Good communication skills are essential to deliver diagnoses, test results, and treatment options in a way that can be understood by each patient; they also must be able to give support to patients and to look at problems objectively.
Audiology Job and Employment Opportunities
A growing need for audiologists is expected through the year 2012. This is due to the baby boom generation entering middle age, a fast growth in the population of those over the age of 55, and because hearing impairments and neurological disorders increase with age. Most states are also requiring the screening of newborns for hearing loss. In addition, trauma and stroke victims as well as premature infants have an improving survival rate due to increased technology and medical information. These patients often require evaluation and treatment.
Because federal law provides special education and services to qualified children with disabilities, careers in education services are expected to grow alongside school enrollment. Employment will also increase as more people discover the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of hearing disorders.
Historical Earnings Information
In 2002, audiologists earned an average of $48,400 annually. Earnings ranged from below $32,000 to higher than $73,000. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s 2003 survey reported an average earning of $52,000 for audiologists working a full calendar year; those working on an academic-year basis earned an average of $47,500. A certified audiologist can expect an average starting salary of around $43,000 if they have one to three years of experience.
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