What are the different type of "hearing doctors"?

Have hearing loss, but aren’t sure who to see to get it treated? You are not alone. Just as it can be confusing to know who to go to for vision issues (optometrist? ophthalmologist? or optician?), knowing which “hearing doctor” you should see can get tricky, too.

We clear up the different types of hearing professionals here.

An audiologist is…

The branch of science that deals with hearing is called audiology. So, technically, a “hearing doctor” is a Doctor of Audiology. They are also sometimes called “audiologists.” But, not every audiologist is a Doctor of Audiology. Let us explain.

An audiologist is a licensed healthcare professional who specializes in diagnosing and treating hearing, balance and tinnitus disorders and who has, at minimum, a master’s degree. Many, however, also go on to get a doctorate degree (Au.D.), and only then become a Doctor of Audiology.

Audiologists are often found in medical practices as specialists, just as you’d find specialists in other areas, like cardiologists, dermatologists or internists. But more and more hearing aid clinics are run by or hiring audiologists.

A hearing instrument specialist is…

When researching who to visit for hearing help, you might also encounter a Hearing Instrument Specialist, who is neither a master’s-level audiologist nor a Doctor of Audiology. A Hearing Instrument Specialist is anyone who has completed the clinical requirements set forth by the state — and has passed a state examination — certifying them to fit and dispense hearing aids.

An otolaryngologist is…

People may also see an otolaryngologist or “ear, nose and throat” doctor (ENT), depending on the cause and severity of their hearing loss. Otolaryngologists are physicians who typically treat profound hearing loss where surgery or cochlear implants are required. They’ll usually refer patients to an audiologist if hearing aids or counseling are recommended.

Are audiologists doctors?

To practice audiology in the United States, the entry-level education is a professional doctorate degree. This doctorate-level degree is known as the Au.D. (Doctor of Audiology). Those earning an Au.D. are referred as “doctor”. However, they are not physicians/M.D.’s (Doctor of Medicine). Prior to 2006, one only needed a Master’s-level education (M.A. or M.S. in Audiology) to practice audiology in United States. Thus, some currently practicing audiologists may not hold the title of Doctor of Audiology and therefore, are not referred to as “doctor”.

What is an ear doctor called?

Physicians who specialize in the treatment of ear disorders are known as otolaryngologists. An otolaryngologist focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of problems to the ear, nose and throat. This is why these physicians are also referred to as ENT’s (Ear, Nose & Throat). Otologists or neurotologists are a sub-specialists of ENT physicians; they specialize only in disorders of the inner-ear, auditory nerve and base of the skull.

We can help you find the right hearing professional

When looking for a “hearing doctor”, the practitioner’s title isn’t nearly as important as their knowledge of hearing and hearing instruments, their professionalism, and your level of confidence in them.

If you don’t already have a “hearing doctor” you are confident in, we can help you find one. Simply type your zip code in here and it will generate a list of hearing professionals in your area who you can call and who can help you hear and live your best.

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By Starkey Hearing