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What does a Clinical Audiologist do?

By Liz Fernandez
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A clinical audiologist works to find the causes of hearing loss and develops a treatment plan for patients. During the course of an evaluation, the clinical audiologist will perform diagnostic tests and interviews with the patient to determine the source of the hearing loss. They are also tasked with prescribing hearing aids and fitting cochlear implants.

Hearing loss can occur from exposure to loud noise, chronic ear infections and viral infections. Genetic disorders or birth trauma can also be causes. Some medications can affect hearing in patients. A clinical audiologist determines which factor caused the hearing loss or problem. He or she may also work with patients to teach them ways to cope with the loss, prevent future degeneration of hearing, and teach proper usage of hearing aids.

Audiologists work in clinical settings and often must operate medical devices such as audiometers that measure what sounds a patient hears. They must also keep accurate records of their patients. In these records, they must keep notes of patient evaluations and track treatments as well as their effectiveness. They must adjust the treatment plan to have the most positive effect and work with insurance companies to secure needed equipment for patients.

Doctors and nurses may work with clinical audiologists to help identify and prevent hearing loss. A clinical audiologist can administer specialized tests that help a doctor diagnose certain diseases and disorders. He or she can also adjust hearing aids and other devices so that patients can continue to live full, productive lives.

In the clinical field, audiologists will work with a wide range of patients. They may work with children who have experienced hearing loss since birth. The majority of the time, however, is spent working with older patients who have lost their hearing as a result of age. This group of patients can be challenging because hearing loss tends to decline further with age, despite hearing aids and rehabilitation.

It is also possible for a clinical audiologist to work in the research field. In this capacity, audiologists work on new technologies and treatment studies as well as teach others entering the field. This path offers little direct contact with patients.

Most audiologists have a master’s degree and have passed the national exam required to practice in the field. Some places of employment may require clinical experience, an up-to-date license, and a test in order to distribute hearing aids. Ongoing education is required in this field to remain licensed and abreast of the latest technology.

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Discussion Comments
By lovealot — On Sep 19, 2011

Hearing loss due to being around excess noise is still a problem. It's a shame how many young people are losing some of their hearing ability by either being a part of a loud band or just going to many band performances. There are also the loud noises in factories and the noise that comes from machinery outdoors.

So many young people think that they are invincible and nothing could possibly affect their hearing. I've noticed too that the sound at movie theaters is very loud. Could be a problem if you go to movies often.

Hope we can all help to educate children and adults about the dangers of loud noises and hearing loss. As dorky as it sounds, earplugs need to be used much more often.

By BabaB — On Sep 18, 2011

I'm glad to read that in order to get licensed as a clinical audiologist, you need to take a national exam, among other requirements. It seems that so many professions only require local exams and certification. I think that for so many professions, especially in the medical field, need to pass tests for universal knowledge on a national level.

I also appreciate the fact that they need to continue to update their knowledge and learn about new technologies in the field.

As the baby boomers age, there will be a great need for audiologist to test hearing,and find the right hearing devices for the elderly. Clinical audiologists will also be needed to research better ways to prevent hearing loss and improve hearing when it is deteriorating.

By truman12 — On Sep 17, 2011

My girlfriend's mom is an audiologist. I don't think that she is technically a clinical audiologist but she works for a company that makes hearing aids and she assist customers when they are being fitted for an ear piece.

She seems to love her job because she provides such an integral service to people. They come to her when they can't hear and they leave being able to pick up on the sounds of the world again. Imagine being able to give that gift to someone.

She has been doing it for years and I know that she gets frustrated with office politics sometimes but she would never leave her job because of the satisfaction it gives her. There are not many jobs where you can honestly say that you help people but she has one of them.

By Tomislav — On Sep 16, 2011

I received my undergraduate degree in Communication Disorders, and this allowed me to be eligible to go to graduate school and get my Masters in Speech Language Pathology to become a Speech Language Pathologist (speech therapist) *or* I could have gone to Audiology school.

It was a tough choice as I found hearing to be fascinating. However, audiologists have to go to more school than speech therapists (audiologists was either a 3 or 4 year school and speech pathology school was another 2 years).

In the end I made the right decision for me, but I still think clinical audiology is a fascinating field.

By julies — On Sep 16, 2011

@LisaLou - I have known some people who were very reluctant to get hearing aids. Once they finally gave in and decided to go ahead with it, a whole new world seemed to open up for them.

I agree that because it happens slowly over time for most people, they don't realize how it is affecting them and others around them.

There have been some big improvements made in hearing aids over the years. They aren't nearly as noticeable as they used to be either. I really don't know what hearing aid prices are, but I think it would be well worth the price to be able to hear well.

By LisaLou — On Sep 15, 2011

My husband has worked construction for many years. Even though he wears ear plugs on a regular basis, the constant noise of machinery has taken a toll over the years.

Because this happens so gradually, it was hard for him to recognize that he had a problem. He met with a clinical audiologist at a hearing center to test his hearing.

His hearing was diminished quite a bit, but not to the point where he needed hearing aids yet. I am sure he will put that off as long as possible, but now he is at least aware of what is happening.

By dfoster85 — On Sep 14, 2011

@EdRick - I was curious about that, too, and I remember chatting a little with the lady who did my little one's test. They are technicians who are trained to do the test. The computer tells them pass or fail. Anything beyond that would have to be looked at by an audiologist. The idea of the test is to refer babies to audiologists for further testing if necessary. ("Failing" the screen doesn't necessarily mean there's anything wrong with baby's hearing.)

It's one of those many, many jobs in health care that many people aren't aware of. We tend to think it's all "doctors" and "nurses," but in reality, the person who checks your blood pressure might be a CNA, your blood might be drawn by a phlebotomist, etc.

By EdRick — On Sep 14, 2011

I remember my baby daughter having a test for her hearing before we even left the hospital. Someone came to our room and hooked her up to electrodes. (It's so strange - they explained it to me, but I still don't get how they can tell whether a newborn can hear the tone.)

Poor little thing "failed" the test the first day, but passed the next. I don't know why they thought a baby less than twelve hours old would be able to hear through her swollen ears!

Administering the test looked pretty simple. Is that an audiologist job, or is it done by a technician of some kind?

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