Is an Audiologist a Doctor? Analyzing the ‘Married to Medicine’ debate
The new reality TV show “Married to Medicine Houston,” which follows five female doctors in their social and professional lives, recently exposed an interesting question: Is an audiologist a doctor?
The show highlights the fact that Audiologists in the US are required to have a Doctorate degree, either a Ph.D. or an Au.D..
I thought it might be interesting to share a little about the hard work that goes into becoming an audiologist today.
Is an audiologist a doctor?
Let me first start by saying, I studied Audiology and worked as a Pediatric Audiologist in Australia and therefore am not a Doctor of Audiology. Currently, the United States is the only country that requires an Audiologist to complete a 4-year doctoral degree in order to practice.
Although, not a medical doctor or physician (M.D.), Au.D.s complete a minimum three years post-graduate education with increasing clinical experience each year, as well as a fourth-year externship at a clinical site. An audiologist’s education is a similar track to other professionals, such as Dentists (D.D.S.) and Pharmacists (Pharm.D.) who are also called “doctors.”
It was only in 2007 that it became mandatory to have a doctoral degree to practice audiology, so many experienced audiologists in the US (and most of those outside of the US) have completed at least a two-year post-graduate degree and a one-year internship program. In fact, a significant number of experienced audiologists have also returned to the classroom to advance their education and become Doctors of Audiology.
After graduation, all audiologists must pass a board certification exam and maintain a certain number of continuing education credits every year in order to keep their certification. This ensures that the profession as a whole stays current with the latest research, technology and medical advances related to hearing loss and vestibular function. Speaking of vestibular function, that’s something many people don’t realize. Audiologists are also experts on the vestibular or balance system, as it’s housed in the inner ear. Audiologists test, diagnose and treat balance disorders and work very closely with Otolaryngologists in managing these patients also with those who have hearing loss.
The American Board of Audiology also offers specialty certifications in Pediatric Audiology and Cochlear Implants which requires practicing audiologist to demonstrate a high level of knowledge in working with these specialized populations. An audiologist that holds a specialty certificate must have practiced for a certain number of years and pass a stringent board examination.
So, is an audiologist a doctor? Audiologists are essentially experts in hearing disorders, hearing technologies (hearing aids and cochlear implants) as well as anatomy, physiology, speech and language development and even pharmacology. Audiologists have completed 6 to 8 years of higher education and training and work continuously to stay abreast of the latest research so they can offer their patients and their patients’ families the best audiological care possible.
To sum it up: Yes, an Audiologist with an Au.D. is in fact a Doctor of Audiology.