Audiology is the science of hearing and balance and associated disorders. Audiologists are health care professionals with graduate degrees who assess and manage hearing and balance problems for patients of all ages. Using audiometers, computers, and numerous other testing devices, audiologists determine the severity and type of hearing loss and which aspects of the overall balance system may be involved in the patient's symptoms. Audiologists interpret test results and often develop a plan of treatment with other health care professionals including physicians, speech-language pathologists, physical therapists, classroom teachers, social workers and psychologists.
Audiologists may specialize in the selection and fitting of hearing aids and cochlear implants, and training and counseling patients in the use of various assistive listening devices. Audiologists may also be responsible for managing hearing conservation and hearing loss prevention programs for individuals exposed to intense noise levels, assisting persons with management of tinnitus and coordinating an educational plan for children with hearing loss. They may also conduct research to enhance knowledge about hearing and balance function. Audiology work settings include clinics, hospitals, schools, colleges and universities, private practice and hearing aid manufacturing.
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Employment of audiologists is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2018. Because hearing loss is strongly associated with aging, rapid growth in the population age 55 and over will cause the number of persons with hearing impairment to increase markedly.
In addition, baby boomers are now entering middle age, when the possibility of neurological disorders and associated speech, language and hearing impairments increases. Medical advances are also improving the survival rate of premature infants and trauma and stroke victims, who then need assessment and possible treatment.
According the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2010, the median annual salary for audiologists with a clinical doctorate was $70,000. For those with research doctorates, the median annual salary was $96,097. For an audiologist with one to three years of experience, the median starting annual salary was $60,000. In addition to base salaries, audiologists also report commissions and bonuses.
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