There are a number of different hearing healthcare professionals available, but each has different education and training requirements. An audiologist and a hearing instrument specialist (HIS) are two of the most common professionals when seeking treatment for hearing loss. To better understand which professional is best for you, it’s important to distinguish the differences between the two.
An audiologist is trained to diagnose, treat and monitor disorders of the hearing and balance system. They are trained in anatomy and physiology, amplification devices, cochlear implants, electrophysiology, acoustics, psychophysics and auditory rehabilitation. Doctors of Audiology complete, at a minimum, an undergraduate and doctoral level degree in audiology, as well as a supervised fellowship prior to state licensure and national certification. This usually requires eight years of post-secondary education (four years of college and four years of graduate school). The graduate school years focus on the medical, diagnostic and rehabilitative aspects of hearing loss, hearing aids and the vestibular system. Upon completion of training, audiologists must also pass a national standardized examination in order to be eligible for state licensure. Continuing education requirements must be met in order for an audiologist to maintain state licensure. For individuals with hearing loss, auditory issues or balance problems, an audiologist is the most qualified professional to assist with diagnosis and treatment.
A hearing instrument specialist is licensed to perform audiometric testing to sell and fit hearing aids. In order to obtain a license, a HIS generally has to take a certification program in hearing aids, complete in-the-field training hours and pass an exam. Hearing instrument specialists are able to fit and repair hearing aids, however, they cannot diagnose a hearing loss.