Audiologists test people's hearing, finding and measuring hearing loss. They also test and assess patients for balance problems. They work closely with the patient, giving them advice and information to help them develop the skills they need to manage difficulties. Audiologists fit patients with hearing aids and give advice on a range of other devices.
Audiologists test and measure people's hearing, using specialist equipment such as audiometers. They use a range of tests. For some, the patient does not have to respond to a sound. For example, in a test for auditory brainstem response, the patient wears electrodes on their skin while equipment measures electrical activity from their auditory system.
Apart from measuring any hearing loss, audiologists can also work out if the patient has a balance problem. They assess balance problems and can arrive at a diagnosis of neurological (nerve system) problems. Audiologists are involved in the assessment of ear-related balance problems.
Audiologists work closely with their patients, often giving them long-term support and advice. They enable patients to cope with or overcome hearing loss, balance problems and conditions such as tinnitus.
If the patient needs a hearing aid or other device, audiologists will select and fit the one that best suits their needs. They will also give advice on how best to use it, and emotional support to help the patient come to terms with wearing it.
Apart from working with patients, audiologists also look after, test and maintain the equipment.
Audiologists work closely with a wide range of health, social care and education professionals, such as doctors, speech and language therapists and people in social services departments.
Some audiologists specialise in work with children. For example, they diagnose babies that are born with permanent hearing loss. They support parents during this distressing time and work with a multi-disciplinary team to address the baby's needs.
Other audiologists specialise in the rehabilitation of adults. They plan and deliver an individual programme to increase the patient's communication skills and independence. This programme could include hearing aid support, tinnitus management, counselling or balance re-training, depending on the patient's needs.
Personal Qualities and Skills
- To enjoy working with people.
- The ability to listen to patients as they describe their problems.
- Empathy and a caring nature.
- To be comfortable with speaking at a normal level but slightly slower pace, so patients can lip-read you.
- Good planning and time-management skills.
- Technical skills to use equipment.
- Problem-solving skills.
- Practical hand skills to work with small hearing aid parts.
- An interest in science; analytical skills; and willingness to keep up to date with technology.
Pay And Opportunities
Typical employers of audiologists
Employers include the NHS (in audiology units and schools or child assessment centres). There are limited opportunities in private healthcare companies and in industry (for example, carrying out hearing assessments).
Opportunities for audiologists occur in towns and cities throughout the UK.
Entry routes and training
To become an audiologist, you can take a three-year degree in healthcare science (audiology). This would enable you to register with the Registration Council for Clinical Physiologists. Entry requirements for degrees vary so it is important to check with individual universities.
People working in the NHS, for example, as assistant practitioners (who deliver care under the supervision of a registered audiologist) or who are employed in the private hearing aid provider sector can take a foundation degree in hearing aid audiology. This allows you to register with the Health and Care Professions Council as a hearing aid dispenser, working in private practice. Progression can also be onto a recognised degree course, allowing you to work as an audiologist in the NHS, private practice or another area.
Graduates with a first (undergraduate) degree in a relevant science subject (2:1 or above) can apply to the Scientist Training Programme (STP). Each NHS organisation that advertises STP vacancies decides which degree subjects are relevant, but these could include physiology, pure or applied physics, engineering, biology or human biology. You'll be employed by an audiology department which will then arrange your clinical training for you. You will also work part-time towards a postgraduate MSc.
Entry to the STP can also be possible with a 2:2 if you also have a relevant postgraduate qualification.
For more information, please contact the British Academy of Audiology or NHS Careers.