People communicate through conversation, which is the foundation of all types of relationships, both personal and professional. For those with speech-related barriers to communication, there can be challenges to building these connections. Communication-based impairments are common in the United States; in fact, an estimated 40 million Americans struggle with speech, language, and/or hearing disorders, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
Professionals in the field, such as speech-language pathologists, speech and hearing scientists, audiologists, and audiologist assistants, use their expertise to make a lasting impact in the lives of others by reducing barriers to communication. They deliver a variety of solutions, such as hearing aids, speech therapy, and other treatments or technologies that help their clients live fuller, more connected lives. Those interested in contributing to the field of communication sciences and disorders should learn more about how to become an audiologist assistant.
What Does an Audiologist Assistant Do?
Before learning how to become an audiologist assistant, a candidate should first understand the responsibilities of the position. Audiologist assistants work under the supervision of a certified or licensed audiologist to improve patient care. Their contributions increase productivity and patient satisfaction while reducing wait times and patient costs by providing audiology services that do not require a certified or licensed audiologist.
The duties of an audiologist assistant vary, depending on the level of training, available supervision, local laws, and work environment. Generally, supervising audiologists assign assistants some duties that require direct supervision, as well as some that require indirect supervision. The tasks an audiologist assistant may perform include maintaining equipment and tools, repairing hearing aids, and checking the functionality of audiology equipment. Audiologist assistants may also conduct neonatal screenings to help identify whether a newborn may have hearing loss.
Other responsibilities of an audiologist assistant can include preparing patients for electrophysiologic and balance testing, as well as assisting the supervising audiologist during testing. Assistants may also perform administrative tasks, such as record keeping, and can sometimes assist in clinical research.
Overall, audiologist assistants support audiologists in performing routine tasks, allowing them to devote more time to complex evaluations, diagnostics, management, and treatments that require their level of expertise. The support of audiologist assistants allows audiologists to develop more comprehensive patient care strategies, ultimately improving patient outcomes.
Steps to Become an Audiologist Assistant
There are several steps required to become an audiologist assistant, including getting the appropriate education, licensing, and training.
1. Complete Your Education
The minimum accepted educational level for an audiologist assistant is a high school diploma or equivalent certificate and the completion of a competency-based training program. According to the American Academy of Audiology, aspiring audiologist assistants can receive training through a technician program in the military, a bachelor’s degree program at a college or university, or an on-the-job training program developed and supervised by an audiologist.
Earning a Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders degree can help students develop skills fundamental to the audiologist assistant position, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication competencies. Students can build a foundation in speech science, language development, and audiology. Through this program, students gain the specialized knowledge and clinical skills to help patients of all ages develop or regain the ability to communicate. This program can qualify students for work as an assistant in various healthcare settings, including hospitals and health clinics, schools and child care providers, early intervention centers, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, and research centers.
2. Meet the Licensure and Registration Requirements
In addition to education, audiologist assistants must consult licensure and registration laws, which vary from state to state. For example, Ohio and Texas require audiologist assistant licensure but not registration, whereas California and Alabama require registration but not licensure.
3. Undergo Training to Gain Experience
Experience can have a major influence on an audiologist assistant’s professional growth opportunities. The supervising audiologist will provide hands-on training to an assistant and determine when they are prepared to perform the necessary duties. Many employers require annual continuing education courses to keep assistants up to date on industry standards for quality patient care. Audiologists typically document audiologist assistant training to ensure assistants remain proficient in the role.
Audiologist Assistant Skills
While audiologist assistants can’t perform all the duties of an audiologist, they’re far more than 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 can provide benefits such as increased patient satisfaction, practice efficiency, and higher profits.
Learning how to become an audiologist assistant has some overlap with the process of learning how to become an audiologist. 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 need for various supplies, placing orders when necessary.
- Performance checks: They ensure hearing aids and other devices work properly before delivery 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 community events 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.
Audiologist assistants need specialized skills and knowledge to complete these tasks, including knowledge of audiology equipment and techniques, general office skills, analytical skills, and attention to detail. An undergraduate degree in communication sciences is 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.
Audiologist Assistant Salary
Several factors can shape the audiologist assistant salary range, such as experience level and job location. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median salary of medical assistants, including audiologist assistants, was $34,800 as of May 2019. By comparison, the BLS reports the annual median salary of audiologists as $77,600 in May 2019.
Employment Outlook for Audiologist Assistants
The demand for professionals with expertise in communication-based impairments such as language disorders is on the rise. As the population ages, more people will experience hearing and speech difficulties. The U.S. Census Bureau projects there will be 77 million people aged 65 and older by 2034, and a number of these individuals will likely require audiology services and devices, such as hearing aids. Additionally, as technology continues to advance, the early detection of hearing and speech disorders — specifically in infants and children — can improve patient care.
The BLS projects that employment of medical assistants will grow by 19% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the 4% average growth projected for all occupations. Occupations in speech, hearing, and language development will grow at a faster-than-average rate between 2019 and 2029, and the employment of audiologists will grow by 13% during that period. As the demand for audiologists grows, there will be additional opportunities for audiologist assistants to help provide quality patient care.
Earn a Degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders
If you want the opportunity to help individuals find their voice and make meaningful connections through communication, Maryville University’s Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders degree program can help you achieve your goals. When you earn your degree, you develop the specialized skills in speech science, language development, and audiology to break through communication barriers and take a critical step forward on your career path in the audiology field. Discover more about how to become an audiologist assistant through Maryville University’s program and apply today.