Are Audiologists and hearing aid salesmen/dispensers/specialists the same in education and credentials?
This is a frequently misunderstood topic. No, they are significantly different. Audiologists either have a masters degree in audiology minimally (six years of accredited university education) or a doctorate in clinical audiology, Au.D., or research/education, Ph.D. The Au.D. and Ph.D. degrees both require at least eight years of accredited institution education. During the university training, clinical externships or residencies are required for a minimum of two years once the formal classroom education is finished. Successful completion of a national examination and completion of nine months of professional work experience is then required. Finally, the doctor of audiology is required to obtain state licensure within the state they practice by the Department of Professional Regulations. Ongoing continuing educational requirements yearly must be obtained during the audiologist’s professional career. These requirements generally are in place to protect the public from being misled by incompetent, unscrupulous and unauthorized persons according to the American Academy of Audiology scope of practice guidelines.
Conversely, licensure to dispense hearing aids may vary greatly depending upon each state’s laws. Following are the requirements for Illinois initial licensure:
- be at least 18 years of age
- be of good moral character
- be a high school graduate or the equivalent
- be free of contagious or infectious disease
- be a citizen or person who has the status as a legal alien
- have passed a written and practical exam
- have an associate degree or its equivalent from an accredited institution of higher education that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education
- successfully completed 12 semester hours or 18 quarter hours of academic undergraduate course work in an accredited institution consisting of three semester hours of anatomy and physiology of the speech and hearing mechanism, three semester hours of hearing science, three semester hours of introduction to audiology, and three semester hours of aural rehabilitation, or the quarter hour equivalent.
The method of treating hearing loss typically differs significantly between the hearing aid dispenser/salesman and the audiologist as well. The dispenser’s approach is product or hearing aid focused whereas the audiologist’s approach is patient based or holistic since the hearing aid(s) is a part of the solution and not the entire remedy.