It’s really tempting, we understand. It seems so much easier to go to a big box store or walk into a hearing aid store and get a free hearing test. A hearing aid is a hearing aid, right? Not so fast. What is the difference between an audiologist and a hearing aid dispenser? We feel it’s important for our patients to understand how the two differ. We like to think of it like this: do you want just a hearing aid or comprehensive hearing healthcare?
What is an Audiologist?
An audiologist is a degreed hearing healthcare provider. They have been educated in human hearing and communication disorders. Areas of study for Audiologists include:
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Hearing and the science of acoustics
- Balance/Vestibular System
- Disorders of the Ear
- Hearing Loss Treatment
- Hearing Loss Rehabilitation
- Balance Disorders – Assessment and Treatment
A degree in audiology takes at least seven years in college and trained audiologists finish with a doctoral degree. (Au.D Doctor of Audiology) They must also be licensed by the state where they practice.
What Can Audiologists Do?
Because of their advanced coursework and training in the field of hearing healthcare, licensed audiologists are able to:
- Perform comprehensive audiological evaluations, including:
- hearing testing, including sound booth and other diagnostics that assist with accuracy
- middle ear function
- auditory nerve function
- inner ear function
- Cerumen (ear wax) help
- Evaluations for all age groups: infants, children, and adults
- Functional hearing assessments for hearing aid candidacy
- Selection and fitting of hearing aids and assistive listening devices such as captioned telephones and add-on devices for use with hearing aids
- Assistance with choosing and implementing classroom amplification systems
- Assessments for balance disorders such as Meniere’s Disease
- Diagnostics and therapy for auditory processing disorders
- Diagnosis and treatment of Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and Hyperacusis (acute sensitivity to sound)
- Education on the preservation of hearing for workers in industrial environments, as well as musicians and other professionals who work in loud conditions
- Individual and family counseling to help aid communication and adjust to living with hearing loss
- Follow-up with patients and on-going assistance with on-ear measuring, verification, testing and maintenance of your hearing aids
The overall goal of an audiologist is to provide hearing aid and hearing-related health assessments and rehabilitation to improve communication and quality of life for individuals and families.
What is a Hearing Aid Dispenser?
A hearing aid dispenser sells hearing aids. The scope of practice for a hearing aid specialist is hearing aid sales and fittings. They may also perform a basic hearing test for the purpose of fitting a patient with an aid. They are required to have a high school diploma and they have to pass a certification exam. Big box hearing aid dispensers are sometimes only provided on-the-job training, although some community colleges offer courses in hearing instrument science. They are not able to diagnose specific hearing disorders.
The overall goal of a hearing aid dispenser is to sell and fit hearing aids to help customers hear better.
So, What’s the Difference Between an Audiologist and a Hearing Aid Dispenser?
To answer the original question: a lot. We know it may seem like purchasing a hearing aid from a dispenser is easier, but what you may save up front has the very real possibility of costing you inconvenience, frustration and time, not to mention may not fully address the hearing problem you are experiencing.
Let’s Take Care of Your Hearing Health
Hearing Resources Audiology Center offers comprehensive hearing care for adults and children in Portland, Oregon. Much more than hearing aids, we’re ready to help you reconnect with your world. Contact us today!