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Most people take their sense of hearing for granted. Stop for a moment and listen to all of the sounds around you . . . people talking, cars honking , birds chirping, wind blowing. It is easy to sometimes drown out the sounds, yet imagine being unable to hear anything. Audiologists diagnose and help people with hearing problems and balance disorders and provide non-medical treatment and counseling.

Audiologists assess the extent of a patient's hearing loss, balance and related disorders and recommend appropriate treatment. Services are provided to people who are hearing impaired or hard of hearing and persons at risk of hearing loss due to noise exposure, genetic causes, and exposure to certain drugs, or middle ear infections.

Audiologists often work in teams with speech-language pathologists, physicians, otolaryngologists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, occupational therapists and physical therapists. For example, teams may be involved in assessment and rehabilitation related to implantable hearing devices, such as cochlear implants, or studying and improving measures for hearing conservation in work, school and leisure settings.

Audiologists conduct a variety of tests to diagnose hearing problems. They use special equipment combined with physical tests and counseling. Audio tests are usually performed in special rooms that are sound-treated for accuracy. An audiologist inspects the eardrum and may remove earwax. They may also perform a neurophysiological hearing test, which measures nerve impulses in the brain to identify the location of the problem.

After the audiologist diagnoses the problem, treatment methods are the next step, including counseling. Audiologists may teach patients sign language, how to read lips or even provide them with new ways of coping with work and social settings. They also teach prevention, by suggesting ways to decrease the impact of noise on peoples hearing. For example, they may instruct teenagers to lower the volume on their Discman players, so that they do not damage their ear drums.
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  Interests and Skills  
Audiologists must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills, with patience and sensitivity to their patient's needs. They need the intellect and perseverance required to complete the long educational training involved. Audiologists must have good concentration skills and be able to pay close attention to details. They are trained teachers with an appreciation for precision instrumentation. Finally, they enjoy working in a team environment.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Administer audiometric tests to diagnose and evaluate the degree and type of hearing impairment using specialized instruments and electronic equipment
  • Determine the degree, type and location of hearing problems
  • Recommend, select, fit and teach clients how to use appropriate assistive devices, such as hearing aids, telephone adapters, lip reading and visual alarms
  • Plan and implement rehabilitation management programs for patients, including auditory training and counseling
  • Consult with physicians, nurses, psychologists and other health care personnel to help plan treatment programs
  • Help parents, teachers and employers facilitate communication for people who have hearing impairments
  • Conduct research related to hearing
  • Instruct audiology students and other health care personnel in audiology
  • Audiologists generally work standard, 40-hour weeks with regular office hours. Yet due to their client's schedules, they may sometimes work evenings or weekends. They may work with individual clients or groups of clients in private practice clinics, community care centers, rehabilitation centers, hospitals or schools.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Audiologists work in private practices, hospitals, schools and community care centers. They are also employed as researchers in hospitals, universities and government agencies, or as administrators of speech and hearing programs.

  Long Term Career Potential  
What does the future hold for audiologists? They can work as researchers or representatives for hearing aid companies or in fact, design hearing aids. They may teach audiology at the graduate level (with proper education of course) or take further education and move into speech-language pathology, occupational therapy or acoustical engineering.

  Educational Paths  
Audiologists require a bachelor's degree in audiology, communication disorders, psychology, linguistics or a related field. The next step is a master's degree in audiology, which will include a working internship in a hospital, private hearing clinic, rehabilitation center or health facility. Finally, most employers require that audiologists become certified.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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