Hot Healthcare Career: Audiologist
Have you ever considered a career in audiology? Well, listen up now for reasons why you should. Not only is this career under the radar because of its small size, it’s not as competitive as other healthcare careers for the same reason. And to top it off, now that industry standards have changed, you will be a doctor after graduating audiology school! Audiologists do a whole range of activities related to the ear like administering hearing tests, fitting and dispensing hearing aids and cochlear implants and creating hearing loss prevention programs. A plus side of the career is the variety of settings audiologists work in: primary schools, universities, private practices, otolaryngologist offices, neurotologist offices, hospitals, nursing homes and hearing aid manufacturers.
Currently, all audiologists are required to have an Au.D. (doctorate in audiology) to be eligible to take a licensing exam to practice professionally. Up until 2007, audiologists only needed a Masters to practice. In 1978 the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) created a task force to discuss the necessity of a professional doctorate in audiology. To this end the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), founded in June 1988, grew out of this movement for audiologists to have more autonomy from speech pathology, which audiology had been linked with in the past. A few years later, in 1992 audiology-related professional organizations called for an audiology doctorate program, and six years later they got one.
The audiology field is a modest size; in 2006, there were only about 12,000 audiologists practicing in the U.S. Growth projections from the U.S. Department of Labor position audiology on par with other occupations, at a 10 percent expansion rate through 2016. Because of the small size of the field and the limited growth, there isn’t going to be an abundance of openings, but there is still hope. As baby boomers age, more and more of them will need some help with their hearing. Also, hospitals are trending toward contracting their audiological services from private audiology practices. So, it might be a good time to put your nose, er ear to the grindstone and set up your own private audiology practice. Audiologists who worked in private practices also make more money than those who work elsewhere. Private practitioners made on average $70,920, as opposed to those who worked in general physician offices who made about $10,000 less, according to U.S. Department of Labor stats from May 2007.
The population that audiologists are serving in the new millennium is getting younger and younger. Many point the finger at the iPod, which allows listeners to easily crank up jams to mind-blowing levels. Others attribute the trend to cell phones or noisy concerts. There are still many older folk that come in to be fitted for hearing aids, but baby boomers are now requiring more assistance. AAA notes that more than half of all hearing impaired people are under the age of 65.
Twenty years ago audiologists were not allowed to dispense hearing aids because it was thought to be a conflict of interest, so consumers had to go to hearing aid dispensers to get fitted. Dispensers do not have to undergo the rigorous training that audiologists do. However, now audiologists not only fit and dispense hearing aids, but they prescribe the amplification and handle follow-up care. Hearing aids have gone digital and are smaller than ever now, which makes them way more attractive to wearers.
Audiology careers can also take you to lands far away. If you practice audiology in the military world-wide travel is a perk. Also audiologists have the opportunity to donate their services to underserved countries through AAA’s Clearinghouse for International Audiology Opportunities. Bon voyage to hearing loss!