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With the hearing aid landscape on the brink of some big changes, knowing which professional to turn to for your hearing needs is more important than ever.

But, how do you figure it out? What’s the difference between an audiologist and a hearing aid dispenser? What kinds of credentials do they have? Schooling? Training? Are these professionals interchangeable when it comes to hearing care? Let’s take a look:

Hearing Aid Dispenser

A hearing aid dispenser—also known as a hearing aid dealer or a hearing instrument specialist—is an individual who is licensed to sell hearing aids. They are specifically trained for hearing assessment instrumentation analysis, and to program and modify hearing aids. Some community colleges offer two-year degrees in hearing instrument science, but the majority learn their skill from on-the-job training. Requirements for becoming a licensed hearing aid dispenser vary from state to state.


Audiologists are licensed healthcare professionals (read: doctor) that evaluate, diagnose and treat adult, adolescent and child patients with conditions, such as:

  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Hyperacusis (extreme sensitivity to certain frequencies and volumes of sound)
  • Partial and total hearing loss
  • Dizziness and balance

They have a total of six to eight years in higher education and possess either a master’s or doctorate in audiology. They must also be licensed in the state in which they’re working. Their work can be performed in a variety of settings, including:

  • Clinics
  • Ear, nose and throat (ENT) practices
  • Hospitals
  • K-12 schools
  • Private practices
  • Veterans administration hospitals

While hearing aid dispensers play an important role in hearing health for patients—and may work together with an audiologist—an audiologist is able to:

  • Counsel patients and family about living with hearing loss
  • Manage earwax (cerumen) issues
  • Offer hearing rehabilitation training, including auditory training, speech reading and improved listening skills
  • Prescribe, select and fit hearing aids
  • Provide hearing screening and testing (newborn to adult)
  • Recommend and set up implantable devices for hearing, including cochlear implants and auditory brainstem implants
  • Surgically monitor hearing and the ear

In addition to the aforementioned services, they can also treat the entire balance system of the ear—known as the vestibular system—which makes up 70 percent of the body’s ability to balance (and also controls eye movements).

In short, if you are concerned about your hearing, you should begin with an audiologist for a comprehensive evaluation. This is especially true if you are considering a hearing aid and don’t know the cause of your hearing loss. Once a proper diagnosis is determined (assuming serious medical conditions are ruled out), you can stick with the audiologist or choose a hearing aid dispenser to provide you with a hearing aid.


Come to the Hearing Specialists

At Sonora Hearing Care, our experts are the leaders in treatment, diagnosis and continued care of hearing difficulty. From evaluation to implant testing and mapping, we are committed to providing the best care possible in a warm, inviting environment.

To schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, contact us today.