Our ears do more than many of us realize. They help us hear, but that’s only the beginning. The ears are the external part of a system that plays a crucial role in our ability to balance, detect our surroundings, determine where a sound is coming from, and gauge volume, pitch, and timbre. The proper functioning of our ears influences our lives in more ways than we realize. In fact, the health of our auditory system contributes to a healthy life.
Problems with the ear’s small bones, muscles, or nerves can cause serious issues that inhibit the ability to function. That’s why there are audiologists: medical professionals who focus their work on disorders of the outer and inner ear, also known as the auditory and vestibular systems. Audiologists don’t work alone. They require the support of dedicated assistants to care for their patients effectively. Continue reading to find out more about the field of audiology, the vital role of audiologists and their assistants, and how to enter the workforce with the required audiologist assistant skills.
Explore the Field of Audiology
Audiologists are medical specialists who can diagnose, assess, and treat conditions that affect the inner and outer ear, which primarily impact hearing and balance. Audiologists must have a Doctor of Audiology (AuD). During their doctoral study, aspiring audiologists learn how to assess and diagnose such conditions and what devices are available to treat them. Audiologists commonly find employment in doctors’ offices, hospitals, and educational facilities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In those environments, they interface with patients regularly, administer routine tests, and look out for early signs of hearing impairment or balance problems, developing a course of treatment as these issues arise.
The BLS reports there were 13,600 audiologists in the United States as of May 2018. These professionals made a median annual salary of $75,920. The highest-paying employers were hospitals (with an $83,120 median annual salary), followed by educational services ($80,240), physicians’ offices ($73,330), and the offices of speech therapists, physical therapists, and dedicated audiologists ($72,240). The BLS expects the job market for audiologists to grow by 16% between 2018 and 2028, adding 2,200 new jobs. This growth is approximately three times the national job market average of 5%.
What Do Audiologist Assistants Do?
Audiologists often rely on assistants to help them with many different aspects of their practice. They sometimes employ multiple assistants, depending on the size and scope of their practice. Audiologist assistants can provide benefits such as increased patient satisfaction, practice efficiency, and higher profits. According to PayScale, audiologist assistants make a median wage of $13.58 per hour or about $28,240 annually. However, salary can increase with experience and also depends on location and education. Audiologist assistant skills include patience, knowledge of audiology equipment and techniques, general office skills, and attention to detail.
Audiologist assistants often have the following responsibilities, among others:
- Administrative work: Administrative work includes scheduling appointments, answering phones, greeting patients, and occasionally tasks such as filing patient paperwork or billing. This may also require some skill with computers and business-oriented software.
- Inventory: Audiologists must have stocks of various devices and equipment available for patient and office use. Assistants monitor inventory and note the general need for various supplies, placing orders when necessary.
- Performance checks: They ensure hearing aids and other devices work properly before they’re delivered to patients. They also perform maintenance on the devices and help patients troubleshoot any issues.
- Instruction: Audiologist assistants instruct patients on device use and ear hygiene, making sure they get the most out of their equipment.
- Setup: They help audiologists with setup and preparation, both in the office and at events in the community or during home visits.
- Screenings: Without making a diagnosis, audiologist assistants can administer certain tests and screenings, noting the results for the audiologist to review later.
Developing Audiologist Assistant Skills
While audiologist assistants can’t perform all the duties of an audiologist, they’re far more than just office assistants. Their on-the-job responsibilities require extensive knowledge of audiology equipment and methods used to test hearing and other bodily functions related to the complex human ear. They often work with patients directly, as well as support the daily operations of the office or clinic as a whole.
Audiologist assistants need specialized skills and knowledge, making an undergraduate degree in communication sciences an ideal jumping-off point for aspiring audiologist assistants. Students in such a program take courses on audiology, aural rehabilitation, speech and hearing science, and other relevant topics. This education is also the ideal first step toward earning a Doctor of Audiology to later become an audiologist. Explore how Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders can set you on the path to helping patients treat and manage their hearing and balance issues.