A patients’ journey to better hearing begins when they choose a hearing professional they can trust. But often, they are unsure where to turn. Understanding the difference between an audiologist and a Hearing Instrument Specialist will help them make that crucial decision.

An audiologist is a licensed and certified professional who has earned a Master’s Degree (M.S.) or Doctoral Degree (Au.D/Ph.D) in the field of audiology. Typically, this level of advanced education requires six to eight years of study to complete. They are certified both nationally and at the state level, and licensed to practice by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Audiologists are trained to diagnose and treat hearing and balance disorders, perform comprehensive hearing evaluations, fit hearing devices and assistive listening devices, and counsel patients and their families on communication strategies.

By contrast, Hearing Instrument Specialists are required to have only completed high school or, in some states, possess a two-year degree. In addition, they must pass a written and practical exam to become licensed by the state in which they practice. They may also take a national exam and become Board Certified Hearing Instrument Specialists through the National Hearing Instrument Society. They are trained solely in the interpretation of hearing assessment instrumentation, hearing device electronics and specifications, and programming hearing aids. Audiologists provide comprehensive care and an advanced level of support Hearing Instrument Specialists are unable to match.