What is Audiology?
Audiology is the science of hearing: It is the discipline which is involved in the prevention, identification and evaluation of hearing disorders. This also involves the selection and fitting of hearing devices and the rehabilitation of individuals of all ages with hearing loss.
Audiology is a relatively new profession and really started to be recognised after the Second World War when veterans returned from battle with hearing loss. Electronics started to develop then, so that hearing could be tested more accurately with machines (not just tuning forks) and electronic hearing aids could be developed as an alternative to ear trumpets. Early hearing aids were simple amplification devices which made everything louder. This meant that even loud sounds, such as a slamming door was made even louder. This is not how the normally functioning auditory system works; our ears work by “compressing” sounds – that is, they make loud sounds softer, and soft sounds louder. Thus, early hearing aids took a long time for wearers to get used to – and in some cases, over time they may have damaged hearing further. When digital technology became available, this “compression” of sounds became available to hearing aid wearers, and over the years, sounds heard through hearing aids have become increasingly natural. Hearing aids can now augment remaining hearing – they are designed, depending on the hearing loss, to make speech clearer, and not necessarily louder.
Nowadays there are many sub-specialities of audiology such as paediatric audiology, and tinnitus management.
What is an audiologist and how are they different from an audiometrist?
In New Zealand Audiologists undertake at least 5 years of university study and have a postgraduate qualification, usually a Diploma or Master's Degree in Audiology. They have an additional year of supervised practice in order to receive a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology (CCC) from the New Zealand Audiological Society, and can then become a full member of NZAS and use the letters MNZAS after their names. In addition New Zealand Audiologists have to undertake continual education to maintain their Practicing Certificates. This is a requirement in order to retain membership of the New Zealand Audiological Society. An audiologist is a professional who has received special training in the diagnostic evaluation of the hearing system, on the effects of hearing on communication, and in the rehabilitation of hearing loss, typically through amplification with hearing aids. People of any age can have their hearing evaluated by an Audiologist . You are never too old or too young to be tested. Infants as young as a few hours old can be evaluated using special tests and equipment.
Audiometrists who also work in New Zealand usually have no formal university training. They have historically been trained on the job and have completed a distance learning course leading to diploma level qualifications. They carry out basic hearing tests and sometimes hearing aid fitting. They often, but not always, work under the supervision of audiologists.
Only full graduate members of the New Zealand Audiological Society are able to claim hearing aid funding from ACC, War Pensions and the Ministry of Health.
Visit an NZiAud clinic for honest, professional independent advice.