The audiologist assistant performs supportive duties as directed by a licensed audiologist that are not directly involved in diagnosis and treatment. Assistants may help the audiologist conduct screenings and prepare patients for those, as well as maintain equipment, keep records and repair hearing aids. While becoming an audiologist generally requires a doctoral degree, an assistant position can be obtained with at least a high school diploma and competency training in the field.
Licensed audiologists diagnose and treat people who are suffering from hearing loss, balance problems and other ear-related conditions. They use audiometers and computers to examine patients and analyze results. Prior to testing, an audiologist assistant may check the equipment and make sure everything is in place and in working order for the doctor.
The audiologist assistant may create ear mold impressions for fitting hearing aids and conduct repairs on units that are brought in for service. An assistant in a larger practice may specialize in this activity. A large part of the job will be answering patients’ questions on the phone and in the office. Assistants also help patients learn how to use their hearing devices. Duties may be expanded to include administrative tasks that provide support to the audiologist.
During the course of employment, the audiologist assistant may perform certain low-level testing procedures under the audiologist’s direct supervision, either directly or in a supporting role. Neonatal screening can often be done by a trained and competent audiologist assistant, freeing up the doctor for more critical care and treatment of other patients. Preliminary routine testing can determine the need for a more thorough examination by the doctor, which a well-trained assistant is capable of doing. Assistants should not be expected to perform duties for which the audiologist has not directly authorized and observed them to be competent.
College or university courses may be sought in audiology for those interested in an audiologist assistant career. Military personnel have the option to undergo a rigorous training regimen that can be applied in civilian life. In some states in the US, license requirements include written and practical exams before an audiologist assistant can perform certain duties or tests. Competency-based training may also be given through a program developed by the audiologist.
In the US, the percentage of audiologist assistant jobs in Veteran's Administration (VA) hospitals rose 619 percent from 1996 to 2004. Government positions typically provide on-the-job training, but only to those hired. Job openings exist in private practice and a good assistant may be employed in the same office for a number of years. Non-military hospitals, outpatient care centers and clinics may also seek well-trained personnel in this field of health care.