How Do I Become an Audiologist?

If you have an interest in healthcare and specifically in ears, you may be wondering how to become an audiologist. Audiologists are professionals in the healthcare field that focus on ear problems, such as balance and hearing impairment.

Audiologists examine and evaluate patients with ear problems. They use audiometers, computers and other advanced technology to diagnose problems with balance and hearing capacity. If hearing loss exists, audiologists seek to ascertain the extent and cause of damage. Audiologists typically treat patients by fitting them with hearing aids or cochlear implants or removing wax from patients’ ear canals. Like other medical professionals, audiologists maintain patient medical records and see patients on a regular basis as needed. Because hearing loss can create communication problems, audiologists may advise patients and their family members to learn sign language or communicate through lip reading.

Many audiologists find employment in hospitals, audiology clinics and other healthcare settings. Some audiologists establish their own private practices. Others find work in school settings. Still others devise safety gear and products for employees whose jobs may carry a risk of hearing damage.

To start a career as an audiologist, you must earn a doctoral degree in audiology, or an Au.D., preferably from an institution that is accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation. This four-year graduate level program must be preceded by undergraduate study. A typical Au.D. degree program requires students to study anatomy, physiology, genetics, physics, diagnosis and treatment, pharmacology, normal and abnormal communication development and ethics as well as gaining clinical experience through a supervised internship or practicum.

Though audiology licensure requirements differ by state, every state requires a license. Additionally, an audiologist can voluntarily earn a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association or seek other credentials from the American Board of Audiology. Not all states require certification for licensure, but the distinction may increase job opportunities.

Much like other healthcare professionals, successful audiologists possess the compassion and patience to interact with patients who have suffered damage to their hearing or balance, as well as their family members. Audiologists must also be skilled communicators. Problem-solving and critical-thinking skills can help an audiologist thoroughly examine patients’ hearing and balance and reach the appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Aspiring audiologists can look forward to a positive job outlook. The United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics expects career opportunities for audiologists to grow by 37 percent between 2010 and 2020. This is significantly greater than the anticipated 14 percent rate of job growth for all occupations. As of May 2011, audiologists earned a median annual wage of $66,660, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Again, this number is significantly higher than the median annual salary for all occupations, $33,840.

If you have the compassion to work in healthcare and an interest in hearing and balance, learning how to become an audiologist can help you start a fulfilling new career in a small but growing field of healthcare.

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