Audiology is the study of hearing loss.
Audiologists help people who have hearing
loss. Audiology is the study of the ear
and how to help with problems related to the human ear.
Audiologists use a lot of fascinating tools. A computer is very
commonly used. Another common tool is the otoscope, used to look in the
patient’s ear. They put the image on the computer screen so the
patient can see what their ear looks like. Another tool
audiologists use is a hearing aid screener. First you put a patient’s
hearing aid in the screener and the computer will show you how well the
hearing aid is working.
Audiologists work in a variety of places. Some work in schools and
others work in an office or in a hospital. If the audiologist works in
a school the noise level might be noisy or quiet depending on the time
of day. If the audiologist works in a hospital the noise level will
most likely be high. If the audiologist works in an office the
noise level will most likely be low. Audiologists who work in an
office have a fixed schedule. They work from 7:30 to 5 and have a lunch
hour. No matter were they work all audiologists do tests on hearing.
Now most hearing is tested by computers. The kind of test most
people are used to is hearing a beeping noise and pushing a button,
raising your hand, or tossing a block into a bucket. Your results
will appear on the computer screen. If you have hearing aids an
audiologist will drop a tiny microphone in your ear to test what you
There are two kinds of testing. Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) is a
test that measures the brain’s response to sound. This test
involves putting a series of short sounds through earphones and then
audiologists look for changes in the brainwaves. The changes in
the brainwaves are measured through electrodes usually pasted behind
the ears and on the forehead. Then the computer collects about one
thousand responses in a couple of minutes and averages them. The
responses measure how well you hear. ABR is most useful in
testing the hearing of newborns or anyone else who can’t respond
The second kind of testing is called Otoastice Emmissions (OAE).
Not many people are used to that kind of testing. OAE are
responses from the cochlea. The cochlea is where hair like cells
attached to the nerve help transfer sound vibrations to a part of the
brain that can translate sounds. It can tell what sound is what
like glass crashing, a dog barking or someone talking. Responses from
the cochlea can be measured by putting a very sensitive microphone into
the ear canal. Audiologist can cause Emissions by putting other
sounds into the ear first. For instance in Disorientation Product
Otoacoustic Emmissions (DPOAEs) there will be two sounds in the ear and
audiologists will look for a third sound that the ear will produce if
the patient’s hearing is normal. Like with ABR the computer will
receive many responses within a couple of minutes and this can be used
to screen hearing. Both screening and diagnostic tests are done
at Memorial Hospital. Memorial Hospital is now using both
methods to screen all newborns.
Who and Why?
Who should get their hearing tested? People with risk factors
should get their hearing tested. People should also get their
hearing tested when they are born because early detection of hearing
loss will help avoid speech delay and may help lip reading if a long
time is spent practicing.
To become an audiologist you will need a Doctor of Audiology Degree
(Au.D) in most states. There are 48 states that require an Au.D only
two states don’t. You will need many classes to become an audiologist.
These include anatomy, physiology, physics, genetics, normal and
abnormal communication, developmental communication, auditory neural
system assessment and treatment, diagnosis, psychology, ethics,
English, math, chemistry. The school subjects today that will
help prepare you for this job are reading, math, science, and writing.
Also you have to do one extra test to dispense hearing aids.
there are many different kinds of hearing disorders. Often there is
more than one thing responsible. One of the disorders happens when the
outer ear is closed so that sound is blocked out. If there is only one
thing responsible the disorder is down syndrome. The two main
kinds of disorders are sensorial and conductive. Sensorial disorder
means the cause(es) are often not determined. Conductive disorders
means the disorder is caused by disease and that there can be partial
improvement in the patient’s hearing. Loud music can also cause hearing
disorder. Tinitus is another kind of disorder but not many people think
of it as a disorder. About 50 million people suffer from tinitus but
only 12 million people have a severe problem. It depends upon who has
the problem as to how tinitus is described. To some people there is
either a high pitched sound or a low pitched sound. To others
there are just weird noises in their head. There is no way to
avoid hearing loss but you can help hearing loss by getting hearing
aids and\or learn to lip read. Many people would recommend
I interviewed Martin Bernard John on December 27,
2005. I interviewed him at his office at hearing and speech
His job is evaluating hearing and hearing loss and helping people make
the best of their hearing. He has been involved with audiology for
about thirty years since he decided he didn’t like mechanical
A couple of things made him interested in audiology. When he was
eleven year old he was exposed to twelve shots from a very large
handgun at the rifle range. After that his ears rang terribly,
and his hearing was muffled for several hours. He didn’t wear ear
plugs. They weren’t wearing them either but he got the most
impact of it. Then in he found he didn’t love mechanical
engineering. His girlfriend was taking classes in speech pathology so
he took a class in speech pathology. He became the class
guinea pig because he stuttered severely as a child and still had some
of the same tendencies. He could fake his way through a test
called “ delayed auditory feedback” which makes people stutter. Part of
the speech pathology was to study audiology- to take a little
introductory course, so they’d know some thing about hearing. He found
he had a high frequency hearing loss. Of course his ears had rang ever
since age eleven. He told me they continue to ring. He had a very
good audiology professor.
To become an audiologist he had four years at Washington state to get
his bachelors. Two years at Washington university for his masters. He
recently completed his doctorate, which was about another two years.
These days, people who plan on becoming an audiologist need to plan on
a doctorate, which is another eight years of college.
He enjoys being able to help people. He enjoys being able to
apply science and technology to help solve different people’s
problems. Then realizing it goes beyond that. Every one’s answer
to their problem is different. Sometimes he will have to over
come skepticism, “will anything work” and misinformation, he gets to
blend lots of different sciences and skills together.
Electronics, psychoacoustics, psychology, physiology or the way the
body functions. He told me knowing a little about pharmacology, or
medicine, and how they work on the body doesn’t hurt.
Thank You Martin
Your Guide to
Better Hearing. Alexandria, Virginia. Better Hearing Institute,
2005. Pp 1-7, 14-15.
Occupational Outlook Handbook October 23, 2005
Martin, John. Personal interview. December 27, 2005.
Meusiek, Frank. “Audiology.”
The World Book Encyclopedia, 1999. Pp. 881
Sherman, Josepha, The
Ear: Learning How We Hear. Rosen Publishing Group: New York,