What is the difference between an Audiologist and a Hearing Aid Specialist?

Audiologists or Hearing Aid Specialists: Which is right for you?

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Q: What is the difference between an audiologist and a hearing aid specialist?

A: One key difference between an audiologist and hearing aid dealer or “hearing instrument specialist” (HAD/HIS) is the minimum educational requirements necessary. Audiologists are required to have graduated from an accredited audiology program with a Doctorate or Masters degree. In Indiana, a HAD/HIS minimum educational requirement is a high school diploma or GED.

Another major difference between an audiologist and a hearing aid dealer lies within their scopes of practice. The scope of practice for hearing aid dealers is very limited. They perform the following services:

  • Basic hearing tests for the purpose of selling hearing aids to adults only
  • Hearing aid fitting and sales to adults only

Audiologists are certified and trained to manage many areas of hearing healthcare including providing the following services:

  • Comprehensive audiological evaluations including tests of hearing sensitivity, speech understanding in quiet and in background noise, middle ear function, inner ear and auditory nerve function for infants, children and adults.
  • Correlation of medical history with test results to determine the need for medical intervention, prevention of progressive hearing loss or other health concerns that might need addressed by other medical professionals. For example, untreated significant hearing loss can be related to depression, social withdrawal and memory loss. Certain medications or medical conditions can contribute to decreased hearing, tinnitus or balance issues.
  • Cerumen (earwax) management (removal)
  • Evaluation and management of tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Diagnostic tests for balance/dizziness disorders
  • Patient and family counseling about living with hearing loss and tinnitus
  • Design, selection and fitting of hearing instruments and assistive listening devices
  • Verification of hearing aid benefit on infants, children and adults
  • Rehabilitation therapy for hearing disorders which might include strategies to improve aided and unaided hearing, speech-reading (including lip- reading) and sign language
  • Auditory processing evaluations for infants, children and adults
  • Rehabilitation for auditory processing disorders (similar to dyslexia only involves how the brain interprets sounds and speech)
  • Rehabilitation for vestibular (balance) disorders
  • Hearing conservation programs to prevent hearing loss
  • Research and development of new evaluation techniques and rehabilitation strategies

Hearing aid dealers focus primarily on product sales, whereas audiologists focus on providing a high-level of patient care to ensure overall hearing health which may or may not include sale of hearing device.

Lastly, due to the comprehensive education, training, and scope of practice, insurance companies recognize audiologists as the hearing specialists who are qualified to perform, bill and be reimbursed for evaluations and related services, whereas hearing aid dealers are not licensed to perform or allowed to bill insurances for diagnostic evaluations.

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About Sherry Hodge, Au.D., FAAA, TPA
Sherry Hodge received her Masters degree in Audiology at Ball State University and completed her doctorate degree thru AT Still University. Dr. Hodge is certified by the Tinnitus Practitioner’s Association (TPA) in tinnitus evaluation and management and is a member of the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) and the Academy of Doctors of Audiology. Prior to opening her private practice fourteen years ago, she was the Director of Audiology for fifteen years at Community Hospital Anderson. Advanced Hearing Care is dedicated to improving the quality of life of our patients and their families using the latest hearing and tinnitus technology, patient education, customized hearing solutions and the highest standards of care while maintaining compassion for all. We truly believe hearing well improves overall quality of life.