There is confusion these days about who is providing hearing services. When someone purchases a hearing aid, it is important to know who is doing the evaluation, selection and fitting. So, what is the difference between an audiologist and a hearing aid dispenser/specialist? Hearing aid dispensers are not hearing specialists.
The entry level in Maryland for audiologists is a doctoral degree, requiring post-graduate academic and clinical training. Most audiologists have a Doctor of Audiology degree, but all have a post-graduate degree. All have completed supervised professional experience and passed a national examination in audiology.
Audiologists are trained to diagnose and treat disorders of the hearing and balance mechanism. Training includes anatomy and physiology, hearing aids and other amplification devices, electrophysiology of the auditory system, acoustics, psycho-acoustics and auditory rehabilitation. Continuing education is also required to maintain licensure in Maryland. To be Board Certified by the American Board of Audiology, additional continuing education is required to stay current and must include courses in ethics.
To qualify for a full license as a Hearing Aid Dispenser (in Maryland), an applicant must only be of good moral character, be a graduate of any accredited two year post-secondary program with a diploma or degree in any subject, take the State Licensing Examination and provide proof of successful completion of the International Hearing Society Curriculum entitled “Distance Learning for Professionals in Hearing Health Sciences”, which can be completed in a week, and pass the written, practical and law examinations given by the Board.
A Doctor of Audiology’s training allows them to pursue a rigorous process of professional diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation. Hearing aid dispensers concentrate their efforts on hearing aid sales, fitting, and programming.