Even though many of us remain current with our annual physical, dental cleaning, and eye examination, we notoriously forget to consider the well-being of our hearing. And when our hearing does start to weaken, it appears so gradually that we scarcely notice and neglect to take action. It’s this lack of interaction with hearing care professionals that makes people question what the career actually entails.
And that’s a shame, because hearing care professionals such as audiologists serve as a vital segment of the healthcare system. It’s through the hearing care professional that the proper performance of one of our key senses — one for which we often tend to take for granted — is maintained or repaired.
Seeing that we take hearing for granted, we usually also fail to realize just how invaluable hearing is. With precise hearing, we can greatly improve attention, cherish the details of sound, converse better, and strengthen friendships. And the hearing care professionals are the ones who make sure that this fundamental sense is working correctly.
If you’d like to know more about audiology, this valuable but little-known healthcare field — or if you’re looking into entering the field yourself — read on.
Attraction to the hearing care field
Audiologists are driven to the field for various reasons, but a couple different principal motivating factors are consistently present. First, some practitioners have endured, and continue to suffer with, hearing complications themselves. Seeing as they were themselves helped by a hearing care professional, the desire to return the favor for other individuals is strong.
For instance, Zoe Williams, a hearing care professional in Australia, has moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears. This would have led to an inability to communicate, but thanks to cochlear implants and hearing aids, Zoe is presently able to communicate normally. Appreciating first-hand how improved hearing leads to a better life, Zoe was determined to enter the field and to assist others in a similar manner.
Other audiologists are drawn into the hearing care field thanks to its unique blend of counseling, problem solving, science, and technology. In addition to learning about the science of hearing and the engineering of hearing technology, audiologists also learn how to work with people in the role of a counselor. Coping with hearing loss is a delicate situation, and people present a variety of emotions and personalities. Practitioners must be able to use the “soft skills” necessary to address these challenges and must work with patients on a personal level to beat hearing loss.
Training and preparation
Part of the allure of working in the hearing care profession is the stimulating combination of topics covered as part of the schooling and training. Those pursuing a career in the field learn fascinating topics in different fields such as:
- Biology – topics include the anatomy and physiology of hearing, balance, the ear, and the brain, in addition to classes in hearing and balance disorders and pharmacology.
- Physics – topics include the physics of sound, acoustics, and psychoacoustics (how the brain processes sound).
- Engineering – topics include the production and operation of hearing technology such as assistive listening devices, hearing aids, and cochlear implants, in addition to the programming of digital hearing aids.
- Counseling – topics include how to interview patients, how to teach coping skills, and how to train on the use of hearing aids, as well as other interesting topics in psychology and counseling.
- Professional practice – topics include diagnosing hearing problems, carrying out and interpreting hearing tests, applying hearing treatments, fitting and programming hearing aids, professional ethics, and managing a business.
Audiologists work in a number of settings (schools, hospitals, private practices) performing diverse tasks such as research, teaching, and diagnosing and treating hearing and balance ailments.
Everyday duties include performing diagnostic tests, interpreting hearing tests, and working with patients on selecting the optimum hearing treatment, often including the use of hearing aids. Audiologists custom-fit and program hearing aids to best accommodate the individual and will train the patient on how to use and maintain them. Hearing care professionals also work with organizations and companies to protect against hearing damage in noisy work conditions.
The benefits offered most regularly by those in the hearing care profession revolve around the capacity to positively influence people’s lives on a very personal level. Long-lasting friendships between patients and hearing specialists are also common thanks to the personal nature of care. Helen Keller once wrote, ‘when you lose your vision, you lose contact with things. When you lose your hearing, you lose contact with people. Audiologists change lives, one ear at a time. No one wants to be that person who misses the punchlines of jokes or fails to understand the whispers of a loved one.
When patients convey that they can hear again for the first time in a long time, the emotions can be intense. Patients often describe a feeling of reconnection to the world and to family, together with improved relationships and an elevated overall quality of life.
How many professions can claim that kind of personal impact?