First, what is an audiologist? And what are those funky letters after my name?
An audiologist is a healthcare professional who specializes in the diagnosis, management and intervention of hearing and balance disorders. We receive a 4-year clinical doctorate degree in audiology, more commonly seen as 'Doctor of Audiology" or "Au.D.". This degree classification of a clinical doctorate is similar to what optometrists, physical therapists, chiropractors, and psychologists hold.
An Au.D. differs from an M.D. because audiologists do not go to medical school, do not perform surgeries, and do not prescribe medications. Rather, we are rehabilitative professionals who focus on intervention through technology, counseling, and training exercises.
In addition, an Au.D. is not a Ph.D. When comparing these two degrees, the key difference is that those who have an Au.D. are focused on clinical care whereas those who have a Ph.D. are more focused on research. Both Au.D.s and Ph.D.s are crucial to the profession of audiology; Au.D.s provide Ph.D.s with the on-the-ground experience to inspire research and the Ph.D.s continue to evolve the clinical care provided by Au.D.s through new findings, technological advancements, and development of new protocols.
As the experts for hearing and balance disorders, audiologists commonly work alongside otolaryngologists, or ear nose and throat physicians. Audiologists, however, can also work in private practice, in schools, in hospitals, or in industry. We work with patients across the lifespan and also play a particularly crucial role in the care of veterans and those who work in occupations with significant noise exposure.
Audiologists are crucial to one's overall health and well-being. When we talk about hearing, we are often really talking about communication and how we connect with others. How we hear, how we listen, and how we communicate affects nearly every aspect of one's life and shouldn't be taken for granted.