When you are trying to pick out a new dentist or general practitioner the number one thing we expect is that they have had the proper education. While we make exceptions for things like medical residents or supervised trainees, we feel more comfortable with a seasoned doctor, right? When it comes to audiology, that same standard is there. Oftentimes, patients do not realize that they are scheduling an appointment to see a hearing instrument specialist instead of an audiologist. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in some circumstances it can lead to a lot of frustration. Knowing the difference can save you from a wasted day.

The main difference between an audiologist and a hearing aid specialist is education. While a hearing aid specialist does have a state license and on-the-job training, they do not have a degree in audiology.

Audiologists have 4 years of post-graduate, advanced training in diagnosing, assessing, and treating hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance disorders. The tests an audiologist performs are oftentimes much more thorough with the goal of discovering the extent and nature of hearing loss. As the Hearing Solution Center points out, many choose to specialize in specific areas – just as a doctor may choose to specialize in cardiology or pediatrics – but all audiologists complete core elements that allow them to treat a wide range of patients. They must also complete supervised training before earning their degree and satisfy state requirements by continuously developing their professional knowledge.

According to the Hearing Solution Center, hearing instrument specialist may complete some of the same tasks as an audiologist but they lack the training and expertise that audiologists have resulting in a narrower range of services. They can perform basic hearing tests, help you choose the right hearing aid, and fit you with the hearing aid. Their goal is to test your hearing specifically to dispense hearing aids. In Utah, hearing aid specialists only need to be licensed by the state and are not required to have more than a high school diploma.

So which one do you need to see? See an audiologist if you are worried your hearing is deteriorating further, you are having balance issues, or if your tinnitus seems to be getting worse. Only an audiologist is qualified to diagnose the cause of your symptoms and work with you to develop a treatment plan. A hearing instrument specialist is unable to help you with those things, but is able to assist you in helping care for your aids or select new ones, which are both things an audiologist has had more extensive training in.

Because hearing loss occurs gradually, it is important that you are checking your hearing regularly. Audiologists suggest getting a new test every 1-2 years to monitor your hearing. If you notice any symptoms of tinnitus or experience sudden hearing loss, please call an audiologist immediately and schedule a hearing test. When it comes to your hearing needs, the service and care you receive makes all the difference.