What is an Audiologist?

Want to know what an Audiologist is and how they differ from a Hearing Instrument Specialist?

By: Dr. Pickett of Greentree Hearing & Audiology

What is an Audiologist?

What is an Audiologist?

According to the ADA (Academy of Doctors of Audiology), "an audiologist is a professional who diagnoses and treats hearing and balance problems. An audiologist has received an Au.D. (Doctorate in Audiology), or a Master's or Doctoral degree from an accredited university graduate program in audiology". Some consumers are not aware of this, but there are two different types of professionals that can fit and dispense hearing aids in most states - Audiologists and Hearing Instrument Specialists (or Hearing Aid Dispensers). We will break down the differences below.

Audiologist:  An Audiologist is educated and trained to diagnose, treat and monitor disorders of the hearing and balance system.  During their studies, they are trained in anatomy and physiology, amplification devices (including hearing aids), hearing implants (including cochlear implants), electrophysiology, acoustics, auditory rehabilitation and more.  Doctors of Audiology complete, at a minimum, an undergraduate and doctoral level degree in audiology, as well as a supervised externship prior to state licensure and national certification.  This usually requires 8 years of post-secondary education (4 years of college and 4 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.  Masters level Audiologists with CCC-A certification also complete a rigorous program and practicum to become certified by ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association). Continuing education requirements must be met in order for an Audiologist to maintain state licensure.

Hearing Aid Dispenser: A hearing aid dispenser is licensed to perform hearing testing for the sole purpose of selling and fitting hearing aids.  To obtain a license, hearing aid dispensers are required to pass an exam and the rules on becoming a hearing aid dispenser vary by state. In the State of Missouri, these are the requirements:

  • Must be at least eighteen years of age; and
  • Must be of good moral character; and
  • Successfully passes a qualifying examination as described under sections 346.010 to 346.250; and
  • Holds an associate's degree or higher, from a state or regionally accredited institution of higher education, in hearing instrument sciences; or
  • Holds an associate's level degree or higher, from a state or regionally accredited institution of higher education, and submits proof of completion of the International Hearing Society's Distance Learning for Professionals in Hearing Health Sciences course; or
  • Holds a master's or doctoral degree in audiology from a state or regionally accredited institution; or
  • Holds a current, unsuspended, unrevoked license from another jurisdiction if the standards for licensing in such other jurisdiction, as determined by the board, are substantially equivalent to or exceed those required in paragraph* (a) or (b) of subdivision (3) of this subsection; or
  • Holds a current, unsuspended, unrevoked license from another jurisdiction, has been actively practicing as a licensed hearing aid fitter or dispenser in another jurisdiction for no less than forty-eight of the last seventy-two months, and submits proof of completion of advance certification from either the International Hearing Society or** the National Board for Certification in Hearing Instrument Sciences.

These requirements were taken from the State of Missouri Website.

Hearing Aid Dispensers sometimes use the following titles and acronyms

  • Hearing Instrument Specialist
  • Hearing Aid Specialist
  • Audioprosthologist
  • HAD
  • HIS
  • HS

For more information, you can watch a video from Dr. Cliff on Audiologists


Before you get hearing aids, we recommend asking the following questions:

  1. Are you a licensed, certified and experienced Audiologist?
  2. Are you qualified to recognize medical abnormalities?
  3. Do you refer to a physician for medical evaluation when necessary to rule out the need for medical or surgical treatment?
  4. Do you give a thorough review and explanation of the exam findings and options for treatment, which may include the fitting of hearing aids and/or other assistive devices?
  5. Will you send a report to my primary care physician with the test results?
  6. Are you a multi-line practice that provides choices in manufacturers (as opposed to a franchise that sells only one brand of hearing aids)?
  7. Will you inform me of the warranty and loss and damage coverage on the hearing aids?
  8. Will I receive instruction and counseling on how to operate and care for my devices, as well as how to adjust to wearing them?
  9. Will the performance of my hearing aids be validated and monitored with scheduled follow-up appointments?
  10. Do you accept most insurances?

Do not be misguided by the impression a white lab coat presents in the hearing care industry.  Be well-informed and know in advance if you will be seen by an audiologist or HAD (hearing aid dispenser).  While there are audiologists who work at some hearing aid dispensing companies, the goal of most retail companies is to sell you hearing aids.  Therefore, in that venue audiologists tend to focus on selling you hearing aids rather than your overall hearing and balance care and participating with your medical team. Greentree Hearing and Audiology teams with your primary care physician (PCP) and/or otolaryngologist/ENT physician to preserve the integrity of your overall auditory and hearing health. Learn more about our team of Audiologists here.

At Greentree Hearing and Audiology in St. Louis, our hearing care professionals are all licensed Audiologists and ready to help you or your family member hear the sounds of life!

A few more helpful resources

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