Basic guide: What do audiologists do?

Audiologists use specific testing equipment to measure the levels of sound a patient is able to hear.

These medical professionals diagnose and treat a patient’s hearing and balance problems, often using advanced technology and procedures.

MAJ. Ronald Gosnell, 56th Medical Services Flight Commander, uses an Otoscope

Duties of an audiologist

Audiologists need a doctoral degree and must be licensed in all states; requirements vary by state. Most audiologists work in healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, physicians’ offices, and audiology clinics. Some work in schools or for school districts and travel between facilities.

Audiologists typically do the following:

  • Examine patients who have hearing, balance, or related ear problems
  • Assess the results of the examination and diagnose problems
  • Determine and administer treatment
  • Administer relief procedures for various forms of vertigo
  • Fit and dispense hearing aids
  • Counsel patients and their families on ways to listen and communicate, such as by lip reading or through American Sign Language
  • See patients regularly to check on hearing and balance and to continue or change the treatment plan
  • Keep records on the progress of patients
  • Conduct research related to the causes and treatment of hearing and balance disorders

Audiologists use audiometers, computers, and other devices to test patients’ hearing ability and balance. They work to determine the extent of hearing damage and identify the underlying cause. Audiologists measure the volume at which a person begins to hear sounds and the person’s ability to distinguish between sounds.

audiologist - Doctor examining patient with otoscopeBefore determining treatment options, they evaluate psychological information to measure the impact of hearing loss on a patient. Treatment may include cleaning wax out of ear canals, fitting and checking hearing aids, or fitting the patient with cochlear implants to improve hearing. Cochlear implants are tiny devices that are placed under the skin near the ear in an operation. The implants deliver electrical impulses directly to the auditory nerve in the brain, so a person with certain types of deafness can hear.

Audiologists also counsel patients on other ways to cope with profound hearing loss, such as by learning to lip read or by using American Sign Language.

Audiologists can help a patient suffering from vertigo or dizziness. They work with patients and provide them with exercises involving head movement or positioning that might relieve some of their symptoms.

Some audiologists specialize in working with the elderly or with children. Others design products to help protect the hearing of workers on the job. Audiologists who are self-employed hire employees, keep records, order equipment and supplies, and complete other tasks related to running a business.

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