An audiologist is a health-care professional specializing in identifying, diagnosing, treating and monitoring disorders of the auditory and vestibular system portions of the ear. Audiologists are trained to diagnose, manage and/or treat hearing, tinnitus, or balance problems. They dispense, manage, and rehabilitate hearing aids and assess candidacy for and map cochlear implants. They counsel families through a new diagnosis of hearing loss in infants, and help teach coping and compensation skills to late-deafened adults. They also help design and implement personal and industrial hearing safety programs, newborn hearing screening programs, school hearing screening programs, and provide special fitting ear plugs and other hearing protection devices to help prevent hearing loss. Audiologists are trained to evaluate peripheral vestibular disorders originating from inner ear pathologies. They also provide treatment for certain vestibular and balance disorders such as Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). In addition, many audiologists work as auditory scientists in a research capacity.
Audiology (from Latin audīre, “to hear”; and from Greek -λογία, -logia) is a branch of science that studies hearing, balance, and related disorders. Its practitioners, who treat those with hearing loss and proactively prevent related damage, are audiologists. Employing various testing strategies (e.g. hearing tests, optoacoustic emission measurements, videonystagmography, and electrophysiologic tests), audiology aims to determine whether someone can hear within (high, middle, or low frequencies) are affected, to what degree, and where the lesion causing the hearing loss is found (outer ear, middle ear, inner ear, auditory nerve and/or central nervous system). If an audiologist determines that a hearing loss or vestibular abnormality is present he or she will provide recommendations to a patient as to what options (e.g. hearing aid, cochlear implants, appropriate medical referrals) may be of assistance.
In addition to testing hearing, audiologists can also work with a wide range of clientele in rehabilitation (individuals with tinnitus, auditory processing disorders, cochlear implant users and/or hearing aid users), from pediatric populations to veterans and may perform assessment of tinnitus and the vestibular system.
In the United States, audiologists are regulated by state licensure or registration in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Starting in 2007, the Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) became the entry-level degree for clinical practice for some states, with most states expected to follow this requirement very soon, as there are no longer any professional programs in audiology which offer the master’s degree. Minimum requirements for the Audiology degree include a minimum of 75 semester hours of post-baccalaureate study, meeting prescribed competencies, passing a national exam offered by Praxis Series of the Educational Testing Service, and practicum experience that is equivalent to a minimum of 12 months of full-time, supervised experience. Most states have continuing education renewal requirements that must be met to stay licensed. Audiologists can also earn a certificate from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association or seek board certification through the American Board of Audiology (ABA). Currently, there are over 70 Audiology programs in the United States.
Audiologists have training in anatomy and physiology, hearing aids, cochlear implants, electrophysiology, acoustics, psychophysics, neurology, vestibular function and assessment, balance disorders, counseling and sign language. Audiologists also run neonatal hearing screening program which has been made compulsory in many hospitals in US, UK and India.
Graduates of BS hons Audiology can pursue their post-graduation i.e. MSc/MS/PG. Dip/PHD in hospital care management, Public health, Advanced audiology studies, Audiology and speech sciences. Otology and audiology, Rehabilitative audiology and Pediatric audiology. MS in public health and hospital care management are being offered by various universities in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar but MS in other fields is only available in Lahore and Islamabad with minimum number of seats which is certainly not in the vicinity of every student, due to lack of institutions offering post-graduate courses students are compelled to apply in foreign universities to continue their studies as a simple graduate suffers a lot in the field and has few chances to excel in professional career. It’s not possible for every student to go abroad either due to family reservations or due to excessive financial burden. Government needs to pay strong attention regarding this dilemma of our society in order to meet international standards.
There are multiple universities in Germany, Australia, Canada, Sweden, United Kingdom, China, America and Middle-eastern countries that offer post-graduation courses on partial and full scholarships; their entire detail is available on the sites of universities. Moreover students can work with foreign professors as research associates and research internees. In order to do clinical practice, license acquisition is necessary; there are various competency exams for above mentioned countries such as PCE for Canada, HCPC for UK and MOH for UAE and middle-eastern countries.
Audiology is expected to grow faster than average as hearing loss is strongly associated with aging. Rapid growth in the aged population because of increased life expectancy, more number of people aged 60 and above will cause the number of persons with hearing impairment to increase markedly.
Medical advances are improving the survival rate of premature infants, trauma and stroke victims, who then need assessment and possible treatment. Many states require newborns to be screened for hearing loss.
Federal law guarantees special education and related services to all eligible children with disabilities. Employment will increase with growth in elementary and secondary school enrollments, including special education. Greater awareness of the importance of early identification and diagnosis of hearing disorders is increasing and so is the career in audiology.
Audiologists are experts in the non-medical management of the auditory and balance systems. They specialize in the study of normal and impaired hearing, prevention of hearing loss, identification and assessment of hearing and balance problems, and rehabilitation of persons with hearing and balance disorders.