Employment opportunities are expected to grow by 34% through 2022, which is faster than most other occupations
The YouTube video “29 years old and hearing myself for the 1st time!” has been viewed more than 25 million times. It shows Sarah Churman, born deaf, trying out her hearing implant and finally being able to hear her own voice.
Audiologists are the professionals who help people like Churman treat or manage hearing loss, and the profession is expected to grow exponentially in the next few years, according to the U.S. Dept. of Labor Statistics. This agency estimates job openings to grow by 34% through 2022, faster than most other occupations.
As with most healthcare jobs, a force behind this growth is the large population of Americans older than 65 who are in need of hearing devices as they continue to age. However, the invention of more sophisticated technologies like Churman’s is expected to help drive this career upward as more and more young people with hearing loss get modern hearing aids, undergo newer surgery procedures or are prescribed medications.
“It’s a great time to get into the field,” said associate director of audiology professional practices at The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), Anne Oyler, AuD, CCC-A. “There are so many different opportunities they have to work with patients of all ages to newborn babies all the way up to very old adults and anyone in between.”
The profession has changed over time. Oyler, who has been an audiologist for more than 30 years, explained the shift to early intervention that she and other colleagues experienced. 20 years ago, only newborns considered to be at high risk for hearing loss were screened. As a result only 50% of babies born deaf were detected and diagnosed, according to the National Institutes of Health. Today, more than 95% of babies born in the U.S. are screened for hearing loss, usually before they leave the hospital.
“Before that we weren’t identifying hearing loss until the children were able to speak. They didn’t develop speech and language skills, and then we would rush to get them into hearing aids or frequency modulation systems,” said Oyler. “Now, identifying babies in the hospital shortly after birth, we’re able to get hearing aids and evaluate their hearing right away with really good tests.”
Skills and Training
Working with many types of patients requires patience, problem-solving skills, critical thinking and communication skills, as well as compassion. Prospective students should decide whether their own qualities fit the mold.
To become an audiologist, students must already have a bachelor’s degree in any field before entering into the 4-year graduate degree program. During those 4 years, students complete courses in physics, genetics, anatomy, physiology, normal and abnormal communication development, diagnosis and treatment, pharmacology and ethics, in addition to getting supervised, hands-on experience in a clinical setting, reports the U.S. Dept. of Labor Statistics.
After earning their audiology degree, graduates should consider where they’ll look for employment; each state has its own set of requirements for a professional license, with some requiring credentialing through ASHA.
Wherever they work, audiologists have the chance to help children and adults, as well as their families.