Audiologists vs Audiometrists
Both Audiologists and Audiometrists can help to improve the lives of those living with hearing loss, but they each have a different set of responsibilities.
Living with a hearing impairment can be stressful enough without having to wade through research on who to approach to receive treatment. Click here to book a free hearing test now.
What are Audiologists?
Audiologists are the experts in all aspects relating to hearing loss. They can function independently from all other healthcare professionals due to their extensive training and eight years of education. This means you will find them in a variety of settings such as hospitals, schools, ENT practices and private hearing aid clinics.
In Australia, Audiologists must have completed at least the equivalent of an Australian university Masters-Level degree in Clinical Audiology.
It is unclear when exactly audiology began. The profession started taking off in the 1920s when the first audiometers where invented to measure hearing loss. This paved the way for new research and innovations. The term ‘Audiologist’ was coined in the 1940s when soldiers returning from World War II were suffering from noise-induced hearing loss, and more research and dedication needed to be put into the profession.
Today, an Audiologist needs to have a doctorate in Audiology; this means eight years of education so that they are fully versed in all things hearing. They are then required to complete twelve months of supervised clinical experience, which ensures they have a detailed understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the auditory system.
They are trained on subjects such as:
- Fitting and adjusting hearing aids
- Diagnosis testing
- Psychoacoustics (the scientific study of sound perception)
- Research processes
- Treatment (hearing aids, cochlear implants, bone anchored hearing aids and more)
- Auditory rehabilitation
- Balance disorders
- Working with all patients from infants to seniors
Audiologists often specialise in specific areas like profound hearing loss or tinnitus, but all have an in-depth knowledge of all aspects to do with the profession.
In addition to all of this, audiologists also need to have excellent interpersonal skills to communicate with their patients and other medical professionals. They often come across patients who are incredibly frustrated by their hearing loss, and need to be able to compassionately educate them on how to minimise discomfort, improve communication, and how to start with the best treatment in a timely fashion.
Audiologists in Australia can:
- Assess hearing by carrying out a hearing test
- Prescribe medications for ear infections
- Clean ear canals
- Address some issues concerning balance (vestibular function)
- Suggest ways of coping with, and reducing, tinnitus
- Assess auditory processing function and neural function (identifying disorders such as dyslexia, ADD, autism)
- Provide a range of rehabilitation and communication training
- Fit and monitor hearing devices like hearing aids, earplugs and assistive listening devices
- Fit and monitor implants like cochlear implants and bone conducting hearing aids
Audiologists also work closely with other professionals like speech-language pathologists, physical therapists, and physicians, to develop treatment plans for patients whose hearing loss affects many areas of their life.
They can educate patients on how to protect hearing, limit hearing loss, improve communication and quality of life, and prevent further damage or impairment.
What are Audiometrists?
Audiometrists are hearing care professionals who specialise in the non-medical assessment and management of hearing loss.
In Australia, audiometrists must have undertaken at least the equivalent of an Australian Diploma-level Technical and Further Education (TAFE) vocational qualification in audiometry or a Bachelor of Audiometry from an accredited university.
Audiometrists are licensed to conduct hearing assessments to determine if a patient has hearing loss. They can specify the nature and degree of the loss, and assess whether this is affecting the patient’s communication skills and quality of life.
Only Audiometrists who complete a further Diploma, and two years supervised clinical experience, are qualified to prescribe and fit hearing aids. In these supervised years, they are closely monitored and evaluated in a wide range of procedures.
Once this extra training has been completed, the audiometrist can put a treatment plan in place which may include fitting and adjusting hearing aids.
By working together with their patient, an Audiometrist can establish the best course of action for treatment. Sometimes, this may mean referring the patient on to another medical professional if a different approach is necessary.
If hearing aids are deemed an appropriate course of action, the Audiometrist will go through the appropriate procedures to find the best style and type to fit their patient’s lifestyle. They will instruct the patient, and the family and friends if need be, how to get the most out of the devices.
Once the aids have been fitted, they will give detailed information and instructions on how to use the devices, how to care for them, and how to gradually build them into being a natural part of everyday life.
With these devices, information, and guidance, the patient should become accustomed to hearing and listening again within a short period of time.
Fully trained Audiometrists can:
- Assess hearing by carrying out a hearing test
- Fit and monitor hearing aids
- Create moulds and impressions of patient’s ears to ensure proper fit of hearing aids
- Perform repairs on hearing aids
- Program hearing aids to automatically enhance certain frequencies and keep others at the same level (this is done by using computer software and ensures the patient is not receiving sounds that will be extremely loud or startling)
- Conduct follow up exams with patients to ensure their continuing satisfaction with the devices
There are many different models and styles of hearing aids on the market today, many being very discreet, and some even sitting entirely in the ear canal. An audiometrist will consider the patient’s needs and preferences, and go through the features and benefits of each, to make sure the device prescribed is in line with their individual requirements.
An Audiometrist can also put together a rehabilitation program to ensure the patient can recover any communication skills they may have lost, or lost confidence in. They can undertake certain procedures to assist an audiologist in determining the extent of a hearing loss, as many of them operate under a licensed audiologist.
Which one is right for me?
Audiologists are trained over a much broader spectrum than Audiometrists, so can assist with a wider cross section of hearing loss related issues. They can diagnose hearing losses that are due to both physiological and neural disorders and can treat a wide variety of hearing impairments.
Typically an Audiometrist works under an Audiologist and is not trained in many of the same fields (counselling, cochlear implants, bone anchored hearing aids) but can administer hearing tests, fit hearing aids, and answer any questions the patient may have about them.
If you suspect you have a hearing loss and want to be pointed in the right direction, click here to book a free hearing test now.