What is an Audiologist? Everything You Need to Know

An audiology student uses an otoscope to examine a patient's ear canal.

Greatly improve the lives of others with a meaningful and fulfilling career in audiology.

Admissions for the doctor of audiology program at Pacific open this upcoming fall, 2024! Discover why our three-year accelerated program is the perfect way to jumpstart your audiology career by inquiring with an admissions counselor or scheduling a campus visit today.

A career in audiology is so much more than administering hearing tests and fitting patients for hearing aids.

Rather, audiologists employ an evolving suite of technology to educate, research, and treat disorders associated with the inner-ear, including hearing loss, aural rehab, and balance dysfunction.   

Highly-trained and capable of working in a wide variety of healthcare settings, audiologists serve a foundational role in primary care, treating, and at times restoring, a vital aspect of people’s lives: sound.

Hearing loss is one of the most common health problems in the United States. The research and treatment from licensed audiologists working to address this is crucial. 

Want to know more? Here’s some answers to the most common questions you might have about what it means to be an audiologist.  


1. What is an Audiologist?

Audiologists are skilled healthcare professionals who specialize in diagnosing and treating conditions relating to the function of the inner ear.

These functions primarily involve hearing and balance, though can be linked to other physical or neurological processes. 

Many audiologists specialize in hearing loss, meaning that, apart from routine checkups with your primary care doctor, visits to the audiologist are only necessary if there is a complication present. 

Like other healthcare professionals who specialize with sensory organs (optometrists with the eye, for example) audiologists have the potential to make enormous positive changes in a person’s life by enabling the reclamation or restoration of sensation. 

What is the difference between an audiologist and an ENT?

While audiologists work alongside ear, nose, and throat doctors (sometimes called otolaryngologists) the way they treat patients differs greatly. 

  • Audiologists tend to provide noninvasive, outpatient care, and spend time diagnosing and preventing ear injuries through education and as-needed visits.

    They do not perform surgical procedures but can install in-ear hearing aids and maintain implanted hearing aids.  

  • ENT doctors treat both acute and chronic conditions throughout the head and neck (including the ear) that impact daily activities such as eating, breathing, and hearing. ENT doctors are surgical specialists in addition to physicians. 

Both specializations can attend to issues relating to the inner ear, but perhaps the largest difference between the two is that ENT doctors are required to attend medical school.

Audiologists, on the other hand, only need to have completed a doctor of audiology (AuD) program, like the one at Pacific.     

2. What does an Audiologist do?

An audiology student uses a complex piece of audiology equipment to examine a patient's ear.

Audiologists are the first stop for many who share concerns about balance or hearing impairment to their primary care provider.

This means that they treat patients ranging from infants born with hearing disorders (such as deafness or partial deafness) to the elderly.

To diagnose and treat these patients, audiologists use a robust combination of traditional tools (like the otoscope, the instrument which allows doctors to look into the ear canal) and innovative technology (such as audiometers, the devices used to test hearing and quantify hearing loss).

Perhaps the most well-documented aspect of an audiology career is the specialization in hearing aids.

Hearing aids are a kind of hearing assistive technology (or HATS) and have advanced at a rapid rate that now includes implanted devices and in-ear technology with everything from infrared to Bluetooth support.

Working with audiology assistants and hearing aid specialists, audiologists work to restore the perception of sound to countless people everyday.   

3. Are Audiologists Doctors?

Audiologists are required to have both completed a doctoral degree in audiology from an accredited school and have earned a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology in order to practice.

However, they are not required to go to medical school. 

While not medical doctors, audiologists enter their careers with a wealth of in-clinic experience and hands-on job training that allows them to help patients quickly after graduation. 

Even though an audiology education is focused on disorders involving the ear, audiology students as early as undergrad are focused on studies in biology, chemistry, and anatomy, which continue through their doctoral degree. 

This means that every choice they make in the clinic is built on a foundation of medical expertise.  

4. Where do Audiologists Work?

Due to the collaborative nature of their work and the variety of patients they can treat, audiologists have many choices about where to establish their career. 

  • Private practice. When paired with a team of audiologist assistants, private practice in audiology is possible for established audiology professionals, who can specialize in pediatrics, gerontology, or occupational hearing loss.   

  • Hospitals. Many forms of acute trauma can be accompanied by hearing or balance impairment, and hospitals (private, public, and veterans) need support for these patients.

  • ENT clinics. Working with ENT doctors is a common practice for audiologists, and allows for well-rounded care in a range of cases. 

  • University health centers. Just like vision testing, many educational institutions provide screenings for aural health.

    These health centers also act as teaching clinics for aspiring audiologists. 

  • Assisted living facilities. Hearing loss is one of the most common side effects of advanced aging, and care facilities often have certified audiologists (especially those with a specialization in hearing assistive technology) on staff.

  • The military. Military institutions, like many job sites where there is a high risk of hearing loss due to prolonged exposure to loud noise, employ audiologists in addition to other urgent and acute medical staff on site. 

5. How do I Become an Audiologist?

A hearing aid is placed into a patient's ear.

Getting your Doctor of Audiology (AuD) degree can take as little as seven years: four in undergrad, plus three in audiology school.

And with accelerated programs (like the program offered at Pacific) you can graduate quickly and begin your career soon after graduation. 

Many prospective audiologists pursue pre-audiology programs in undergrad, which provide the baseline of math and science necessary to succeed in doctoral programs.

Audiology school is rigorous, with a combination of clinical training and classroom instruction designed to prepare students for licensure and practice.

What’s the job outlook for audiology?

Job growth for audiology is higher on average than many other healthcare professions, with a projected growth of 10% over the next decade.

This is due not only to new technologies but also to an increasing aging population which will require aural care.

Audiologists are well-compensated, with an average audiology salary between $78,000 to $95,000 depending on their specific placement.  

Browse admissions requirements for Pacific's innovative doctor of audiology (AuD) degree program and begin preparing your application today!