Qualifications of the "Audiologist"'

The person at my local Costco Hearing Aid Center proclaims herself to be “Senior Hearing Aid Specialist” (on her business card): no letters after her name at all.

Should I avoid this place altogether? Have a hearing test done by a “real audiologist” (for which I probably will have to pay) then shop around for a good deal – including at Costco?

Other options? What do people think?

Letters after your name does not grant you magical powers to fit hearing aids, and I have had good fitting sessions by people who are not audiologists. In the end, you should make the decision by the persons ability to successfully fit you.

It may depend on your state. In my state (Alabama) a new audiologist must have an AuD (Doctor of Audiology) but, there are a lot of Master’s level audiologists who were grandfathered in when the new law took effect. I think there may also be such a thing as a dispenser who is not an audiologist but I don’t know if they can perform a hearing exam or if they can work independently.

I have had two audiologists at my Costco, one held an AuD and the other a Master’s (both from Illinois). Both hung their degrees and certificates in the booth.

Bottom line is, do a little research on the licenses and laws for your state and then ask the person.

I agree with zafdor, if they have all the degrees but can’t fit a hearing aid for you then go somewhere else.

Generally a Hearing Aid Specialist is not an audiologist. They have a state license to dispense hearing aids. This means they have (depending on the state) passed a written and practical exam that shows proficiency in and understanding of their field, and sometimes some kind of supervised apprenticeship has taken place.

Although it varies by locale the term senior usually applies to a dispenser who has been fully licensed for at least two years and is qualified to supervise and train an apprentice.

As someone else has already explained an audiologist usually has a masters degree in audiology or even an AuD which is like a PhD but without having to write a dissertation, and is specific to audiology.

As with any field there are good professionals and bad professionals. Competent and incompetent. In my job I supervise and train both HIS and AuD employees, and there is a variance in skill and competency across both qualifications.

In my personal opinion, an AuD is likely to have a broader education covering more unusual kinds of hearing loss, children, and profoundly deaf people. A HIS probably has plenty of experience helping adults with more common types of loss (age related, noise exposure etc).

As to who is better, it is down to the individual. I’ve experienced good and bad from both sides of the field.

Consider having two or three free tests, and maybe one from a ‘real’ audiologist. Use your common sense to compare the work they put in, and get a feel for who you trust to help you.

If you have insurance you will most likely have the ability to have an annual hearing evaluation as one of your benefits. It may involve getting a referral if that is required by your insurance company.

Z300M, Please at all cost stay away from the “Free Hearing Test”. Do not be taken in by their Used Car salesmen tactics. See a recommended Audiologist.

I agree with the above, and my experience in researching and buying my first hearing aids is to go with the Audiologist - but do “interview” two or three.

How many used car salesmen offer free hearing tests where you come from?

Your response has to offend some qualified hearing professionals (who are not audiologists) who promote free hearing tests in order to stay competitive with everyone else. I’m one of them.

You might need to first work with an audiologist/ENT to make sure your loss cannot be corrected any other way besides a hearing device (for insurance purposes, peace of mind, etc.).

If your hearing is sensorineural and can benefit from a hearing device: Search for a qualified person - regardless of what credentials follow their name. There are great Hearing Instrument Specialists who promote “Free Hearing Tests”, and there are bad Audiologists in this world who don’t. The reverse can be true, too, of course.

As a trained audi I dont agree. There are several things to consider besides getting a fitting that the user likes. For example giving to little gain will be welcomed, but is og course not good in the long run. All to often I see blunders like that by untrained fitters.

I was a professional in the acoustics field and (former) member of the professional Acoustical Society of America (ASA). I have done research in acoustics. I think I am qualified to judge the performance of a hearing professional from many years of using various aids.

Like every technical field, there are highly competent practioners and some few downright incompetents, some with impressive diplomas on the wall.

And a patient should keep in mind that the hearing aid business is just that…a business. Based on personal experience, I would advise using the independent practioners rather then large group practices.

Often these large national group professionals are subject to financial pressures that most probably are not in the patient’s best interests. Just my opinion, Ed

this is not necessarily true. the hearing aid provider i have been going to for close to 15 years never charges for the hearing test. it doesnt matter if its your 1st visit or your 20th. reprogramming, cleaning, yearly (or even more frequent) hearing tests and most supplies are also free. they have both Audiologists and HIS on staff and there is never any pressure to buy anything

Since posting my original question I have been looking at the qualifications claimed by “professionals” at hearing treatment centers in this area (W. Michigan). Some do have AuD degrees, some have MA degrees, and many have the letiers “CCC-A”, which I understand means "Certificate of Clinical Competence - Audiology. Despite the claim I have read that only people holding an AuD degree are properly called “audiologists,” many of the “CCC-A” people claim that they are licensed audiologists in the State of Michigan and are members of the Michigan Academy of Audiology. And some with MA degrees claim to be Fellows of the American Academy of Audiology.

I really think you can get hung up on letters. It’s all about if the hearing professional is any good or not. Have they learned from their experience, and do they care enough to apply that knowledge?

I’m closing in on two decades of experience helping people to hear, I’ve fitted over a thousand patients. I could have used that time to earn let’s say four PhDs, if I had the money. Would that make me any better at helping the average hard of hearing individual? Or is my actual practical hands on experience helping people every day to hear worth something? If I were called Master Audiologist Professor Doctor ZCT Esq M.D. does it make me a better person?

As for your question on Audiologists, it all depends on the law of the land. In England I am (was when I lived there and held a current license) allowed to call myself a Hearing Aid Audiologist, even though I have no masters in audiology. Stateside they require an AuD these days, but I believe they grandfathered in the existing audiologists.

In the states, one can be called an Audiologist whether they have an Au.D. or a Masters degree. Masters degree Audiologists weren’t grandfathered in, but they could get the additional schooling through online distance learning programs. Difference is they did not have the 2000 hours of clinical practice requirement or research requirement.

dr. amy

But am I not right in saying that these days Masters programs are being phased out in favor of AuD?

I didn’t see that in your post, I was just referring to the grandfathered audis :wink:

The Masters program for Audiology doesn’t exist anymore in the states. The remaining one program ended last year.


And to play devil’s advocate - just because you have letters after your name doesn’t inherently mean that you DON’T have critical experience.


You’re quite right.

Sometimes I forget the differences between the UK and US too (RHAD vs HIS). There is a substantial education difference, clinical hours, and of course no multiple choice testing during the six hour written exam.

Crash course in making sense of Audiology-world in the US.

Anyone who graduated after 2007 will have an Au.D if they are an Audiologist. That was when the Masters Program was eliminated completely. Audiologist who graduated before 2007 could only have a Master of Science or Arts (MS/MA) or may have chose to get their Au.D. Audiologists who had a Masters degree and had practiced for X number of years could either keep their masters and continue on business as usual OR choose to get their Au.D somehow, most commonly via distance learning. An Audiologist does not have to have the CCC-A to practice audiology. So, you will see many Audiologists that have CCC-A after their name, many who don’t. Some also might have ABA which means they are Board Certified but that really hasn’t taken off too much yet.

No one can “claim” they are an Audiologist unless they ARE an audiologist anywhere in the US as far as I know, without breaking the law. They must meet certain requirements to do so. Up until May of 2010, I held a Master of Science and had my CCC-A. I earned my Au.D and dropped my CCC-A because I did not need it to practice and it did not benefit me or my patients in any way. There is a great deal of politics in Audiology-world…it can be confusing to say the least. All the CCC-A means is that individual completed a certain number of clinical hours and passed a national exam. Many states require passing of the same national exam to get licensed as an Audiologist but do not require you to pay the money to get your CCC-A. Speech language pathologists have a CCC-SLP. Same accrediting body/professional organization.

Now what does this all mean to you, the consumer? A whole lotta Bupkus, except for the fact that by your professional having Au.D, or MS, or CCC-A means that they met a certain level of education/proficiency to pass a test and earn a degree/accreditation. It has no bearing on how well that professional is able to apply that knowledge so simply having those letters after a name only guarantees you that professional should possess the knowledge to help you, it doesn’t mean they actually can do it in practice.

Word of mouth is an excellent way to learn about the abilities of a particular professional. Best thing is to not get bogged down in letters behind a name. Meet them, get a feel for how they can help you and if the two of you can get along. Hearing aid purchases result in (hopefully) a long-term professional relationship so you have to feel comfortable with your provider in every way.

Hope that wasn’t more than you were looking for!

As a HOH for more than 40 years, I can tell you that the effectiveness of the many professionals I have consulted does not always correlate with the degrees they have.

For example in my experience, the most knowledgeable guy was a dispenser at Costco with a Masters in electrical engineering who had worked for years in structual acoustics…retired at 62 …got bored and went to work fitting aids after getting a state dispensers license. On the other hand the stumble bum that almost damaged my residual hearing by a careless hurried fitting had an AuD.

Newbies: Don’t be awed by the office wall decorations… Ed