With as many types of hearing health professionals there are, it’s easy to lose track of which services and care each provides. For instance, do you go to an audiologist for an ear infection, or an ENT? Can audiologists dispense hearing aids, or is that limited to hearing instrument specialists?  To help bring clarity to how audiologists are distinct from others in the hearing care field, we’ve provided some information about who they are and the types of care they can provide.

1. Audiologists have advanced degrees

By education level, audiologists have higher educational requirements than hearing instrument specialists. An audiologist has a master’s degree, at minimum, and newer audiologists are required to earn a doctorate in audiology to practice (although those who pursue research and theory will likely hold a Ph.D.). Many audiologists are also accredited with prestigious hearing organizations and hold special certifications.

Although most practicing audiologists have doctoral degrees, they’re not medical doctors. Doctors who specialize in medical treatments for ear-related conditions are known as ear, nose and throat specialists or ENTs. However, audiologists work closely with ENTs since their expertise equips them to diagnose and refer many medical conditions to them. Audiologists who specialize in cochlear implants may work even closer with ENTs to help with the medical procedures and program the implants, but overall, their roles in the hearing health spectrum are very distinct.

2. Audiologists treat hearing loss, balance disorders, tinnitus and provide ear cleaning

Audiologists are doctors of hearing, so their primary focus is diagnosing and treating hearing loss, whether conditions that show up in infants and children or noise-induced hearing loss that shows up among older adults. They may provide hearing screenings within hospitals, schools, and health fairs, as well as full evaluations at private practice clinics. Using hearing tests and a patient’s medical history, audiologists can diagnose the type and severity of hearing loss and recommend treatment or referral to a medical professional.

One of the key treatments audiologists provide for hearing loss is hearing aids. Audiologists are knowledgeable about hearing aid styles and options and will custom-fit and program them to each patient. They also provide continued adjustments, troubleshooting, and maintenance for hearing aids and other assistive listening devices.

3. They provide communication strategy

Finally, many people aren’t aware that audiologists provide strategies for those who are re-adjusting to life with a full spectrum of sound. Whether speech therapy or cognitive re-training, audiologists have the expert knowledge to further treat hearing loss with an individualized therapy and rehab plan.