Updated: Aug 19, 2021
If you are concerned about your hearing you will seek a hearing healthcare provider, but who may this be? An audiologist? A Hearing Instrument Specialist/Dispenser? In the world of hearing healthcare there are two different professionals who are allowed to dispense hearing aids; an Audiologist and a Hearing Instrument Specialist. What makes them different?
An Audiologist is an individual that has received comprehensive education and training when it comes to diagnosing, treating and monitoring disorders relating to the balance and hearing system. They have been trained in areas such as hearing rehabilitation, hearing aids, physiology and anatomy of the ear, acoustics, cochlear implants, electrophysiology, and psychophysics.
Today, an audiologist will complete an undergraduate and 4 year graduate-level doctoral degree in audiology. They will also complete a year long externship before they can practice independently. This means, an Audiologist has eight years of post-secondary education. The studies in graduate school will enable the individual to focus on the rehabilitative, diagnostic and medical elements of hearing loss, hearing aids, and the balance system. In addition they are qualified to complete wax removal. In addition to national certification, an audiologist will also be required to pass any additional state requirements such as practicum and written testing. For certification to be maintained, continuing education must be completed for both national and state requirements.
A Hearing Aid Dispenser/Hearing Instrument Specialist is a hearing healthcare professional who follows state guidelines to dispense hearing aids. Typically, it is required that a hearing aid dispenser has completed some post-secondary education or college in any field before they are able to make an application for a license.Hearing aid dispensers do not treat children and are unable to perform wax removal. Qualifications vary by state but typically include a practicum and written test and several hours of supervised work.
Both professionals are licensed and follow rules by legislative boards.
If you see these credentials below you are most likely seeing an Audiologist:
Au.D., Ph.D., or M.S./M.A. If you see any of these optional, additional credentials it means they are members of professional organizations; FAAA, CCC-A, or ABA.
If you see these credentials below you are most likely seeing a Hearing Instrument Specialist/Dispenser: BCHIS or NBC-HIS means that a dispenser maintains an optional credential as Board Certified Hearing Instrument Specialist from the NHIS.