Who Are Audiologists?
Audiologists are autonomous professionals and are primary providers of hearing healthcare. They hold a Master's or Doctorate degree in audiology, complete internships, and are regulated by the College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario (CASLPO), which ensures that clinicians meet stringent professional and ethical standards. Audiologists have a scope of practice defined in the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Act (1991), are included in the Regulated Health Professions Act and are entitled to perform the controlled act of prescribing a hearing aid to a hearing impaired person. Audiologists are also qualified to certify hearing impairments for both federal and provincial funding agencies.
What Services Do Audiologists Provide?
Audiologists’ expertise includes the prevention, identification, assessment, treatment and (re)habiliation of auditory and balance disorders; they provide care to all age groups. The following is an overview of the broad range of services provided by Audiologists:
- Perform comprehensive evaluation of auditory function using behavioural, electroacoustic and electrophsysiologic measures; this allows audiologists to accurately identify the presence, configuration, degree and nature of auditory disorders in order to determine the most effective course of treatment/management
- Prescribe (a controlled act under the Regulated Health Professions Act), fit and dispense wide variety of assistive listening devices, including hearing aids, sensory aids, alerting systems and captioning devices to maximize use of residual hearing, ensure safety and minimize impact of hearing impairments
- Provide counselling and aural (re)habilitative services (e.g. auditory skill development, speech reading, etc) to maximize communicative function and benefits of amplification
- Complete assessment and aural habilitation of babies identified under the provincial Infant Hearing Program; sustained audiologic care is essential to maintain and maximize speech, language, cognitive and social development
- Evaluate and treat specific forms of tinnitus (ringing in the ears); interventions such as retraining therapy, prescription of maskers and others can help mitigate potentially debilitating symptoms
- Evaluate vestibular function; interventions such as balance retraining therapy can alleviate specific forms of vertigo
- Promote, develop and manage hearing conservation programs for schools, governments and industry to minimize risk of preventable noise-induced hearing loss
- Perform cerumen management (ear wax removal); serve on cochlear implant teams; conduct intraoperative monitoring; complete clinical and academic audiologic research
- Interact with and provide consultation to other professionals including speech-language pathologists, physicians, nurses, teachers, psychologists and occupational therapists; identify and appropriately refer patients in need of medical consultation
Why Are Audiologists’ Services Essential?
Hearing plays a prominent role in human communication and the way we interact with the world. Untreated or improperly managed auditory dysfunction can have a profound impact at any age and can result in compromised speech, language, cognitive and social development in toddlers, poor academic performance in children, and isolation and depression in adults; inappropriate hearing aid amplification is very dangerous and can further damage residual hearing.
Early identification, accurate assessment and effective individualized treatment of auditory and vestibular disorders are essential to ensure a high quality of life and maximal social and vocational participation in society. Thus, effective audiologic intervention can pay dividends by reducing the financial burden on other aspects of health, social and educational systems. Audiologists are the only regulated professionals that are exclusively trained in the prevention, identification, assessment, treatment and (re)habilitation of auditory disorders. Therefore, in the interests of accuracy and safety, anyone with, or at risk of, auditory dysfunction should undergo an evaluation by a clinical audiologist.