You’re having a hearing concern but who do you call? Who do you see for a suspected hearing loss, an ear infection, or even a simple hearing test? And what do all of those letters behind their name mean anyway?
In a field where there are multiple players, sometimes it is hard to determine who you need to book an appointment with to address your specific concern. Here’s a quick cheat sheet to familiarize you with the different kinds of hearing professionals and what each of them do.
What this means: ENT stands for ear, nose and throat. These medical professionals are physicians trained in the medical and surgical treatment of the ears, nose, throat and related structures of the head and neck. You may also hear them called otolaryngologists.
Special training: ENT is the oldest medical specialty in the United States. A specialist is ready to start practicing after 15 years of college and postgraduate training, which includes medical school and five years of specialty training. The physician must also pass the American Board for Otolaryngology examination to be certified. Some even pursue a one- or two-year fellowship in one of the seven specialty areas: pediatric otolaryngology, otology/neurotology (ears and balance), allergy, facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, head and neck surgery, laryngology (throat) and rhinology (nose).
What they do for your hearing: Because an ENT is a licensed medical doctor, they can perform surgery – such as cochlear implant surgery – and treat medical problems of the ear such as ear infections or earaches.
What this means: Audiology is the science of hearing. Audiologists are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing and balance issues. Before the clinical doctorate became the standard clinical degree for the profession in 2007, audiologists were required to complete a master’s degree in audiology. Because the older degrees were grandfathered in, there are still many practicing audiologists today who hold a master’s degree. Accredited audiologists will have the title of CCC-A or Au.D. following their name.
Special training: Audiologists complete many years of graduate study at an accredited college. These hearing healthcare professionals are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing and balance problems. Because they have studied the science of hearing, they know how hearing loss happens and what the long-term effects of untreated hearing loss are on your life.
What they do for your hearing: Audiologists can diagnose and treat hearing loss in people of all ages, including newborns. Their scope of practice includes: cleaning the ear canal, installing and programming cochlear implants and bone-anchored hearing aids, and fitting traditional hearing aids on children and adults. Audiologists are also trained in the diagnosis and treatment of balance issues. Although they cannot perform surgery, they are trained to identify medical issues and refer these patients to an ENT.
What this means: hearing instrument specialist
Special training: These hearing healthcare professionals must be high school graduates and complete a training/apprenticeship program. Many states also require graduates to pass a state licensing exam in order to practice.
What they do for your hearing: Hearing instrument specialists conduct and analyze tests to determine the extent and nature of hearing loss, then dispense hearing instruments designed to address the symptoms. They provide education on how to use and maintain a hearing aid. HIS work only with adults.
What this means: hearing aid specialist
Special training: This is another name for a hearing instrument specialist. The nomenclature varies from state to state.
Hearing healthcare professionals must be licensed by the state in which they practice. In addition to state licensure, many professionals seek additional certifications to help them deliver the best care for their patients. Here are abbreviations for some of the most recognized certifications.
BC-HIS: Board Certified in Hearing Instrument Sciences
CCC-A: Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology. This certification is awarded by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
FAAA: Fellow of the American Academy of Audiology. This indicates that an audiologist is a member of the Academy.
ABA: American Board of Audiology. This board certification is awarded by the American Academy of Audiology (AAA).