In the field of hearing health, the number of titles can get confusing. There aren’t just hearing doctors, there are audiologists, ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists and hearing instrument specialists (HIS). Some services offered by these professionals even overlap, increasing the confusion. For instance, both audiologists and hearing instrument specialists test hearing and dispense, fit and calibrate hearing aids. If you’re experiencing hearing problems and think you need a hearing aid, which should you choose? Learning the depth of knowledge and the scope of practice will help you make the decision that’s best for your situation and ultimate hearing health.

Causes versus symptoms

You could say that the key difference between audiologists and hearing instrument specialists is the aspect of hearing loss they address. Audiologists are equipped to not only detect hearing loss and provide treatment, but identify the source and cause of hearing loss. Hearing instrument specialists, on the other hand, deal primarily with treating the symptoms of hearing loss by dispensing and fitting hearing aids.

When to see an audiologist

With either a master’s or doctorate degree in audiology, an audiologist is the most qualified health professional when it comes to diagnosing and treating a wide number of hearing and ear-related problems. If you’ve only recently started experiencing hearing loss and don’t know what’s causing it, the best decision is to see an audiologist for a physical exam and comprehensive set of hearing tests. If you need hearing aids, an audiologist can also recommend and fit them for you and suggest other assistive devices based on your needs.

What an audiologist can do for you

With the extensive educational background and training an audiologist receives, this hearing professional is suitable to diagnose and treat a wide scope of hearing issues. From fitting hearing aids to helping reduce tinnitus symptoms, audiologists have a large bank of knowledge and skills to utilize when treating someone with ear health issues.

The importance of the full exam

Even if you aren’t sure about the status of your hearing health, it’s a good idea to have your hearing fully evaluated by an audiologist, who has extensive knowledge and equipment for early detection of changes to your hearing you may not be aware of yet.

With the educational and clinical skills acquired, an audiologist will be able to help you keep your ears healthy and your hearing aids functioning well.