Audiologists are professionals educated in the study of normal hearing processes and hearing loss. The audiologist determines if a person has a hearing loss, what type of loss it is, and how the person can make the best use of remaining hearing. If a person can benefit from using hearing aids or other assistive listening systems, the audiologist can assist with the selection, fitting, and purchase of the most appropriate aids and with training in their effective use. Audiologists work closely with other professionals, in particular speech-language pathologists and medical specialists (e.g., otolaryngologists).
Speech-language pathologists are professionals educated in the study of human communication, its development, and the very wide range of communication disorders. By evaluating the speech, language, cognitive-communication, and swallowing skills of children and adults, the speech-language pathologist determines what communication or swallowing problems exist and the best way to treat them and designs and implements intervention programs, working closely with the children and/or adults and the important people in their lives. Speech-language pathologists work closely with other professionals, including audiologists, psychologists, medical specialists (e.g., neurologists, pediatricians, craniofacial surgeons, gerontologists), social workers, and teachers.
One of the truly exciting aspects of these professions is the variety of work settings available to the practitioner. More and more audiologists and speech-language pathologists are establishing their own practices or designing their own workplace. Some examples of potential work settings are:
- Educational Settings: Provide services at every age level; teach students with language-learning disorders; work with children with severe and/or multiple disabilities; conduct screenings and diagnostic evaluations; develop Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSPs); create programs for the prevention of hearing loss.
- Health Care Settings: Work at an acute care, rehabilitation, or psychiatric facility; diagnose and treat a broad range of communication disorders; treat patients with dysphasia; identify the presence and severity of hearing loss; assess the benefit of amplification devices; design rehabilitation programs; or provide counseling to patients and their families.
- University and Research Settings: All audiologists and speech-language pathologists are consumers of research. Audiology and speech-language pathology are science-based professions and, thus, require an expanding knowledge base from which new diagnostic and therapeutic methods may be derived. Clinical practice changes and evolves in part because of new knowledge gained through research. Speech-language pathologists and audiologists find exciting careers working in universities where they can combine teaching young adults in classes, clinical work, and research activities that find new knowledge about the field to pass along to their students.
- Private Practice: Many audiologists and speech-language pathologists are establishing their own private practice. For those with the entrepreneurial spirit there is great satisfaction and reward from building and running a private practice.
Both speech-language pathologists and audiologists are in short supply in clinical settings but especially so in university positions, so employment prospects are excellent.
For additional information on the professions of speech-language pathology and audiology, contact the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.