WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
A Hearing Instrument Specialist (BC-HIS) & AN AUDIOLOGIST?
By Ted Venema PhD
1. Meeting Hearing Health care Needs with the Two Professions
The number of hearing health care professionals is dismally low when considering the vast numbers of the aging population with hearing impairment. Look at the imminent bulge of the aging baby boomers! The public’s hearing health care needs must be addressed by the combined presence of both the Hearing Instrument Specialist (HIS) and the Audiologist. The HIS, more than the Audiologist, is likely to be found in smaller communities throughout Canada. Given these facts, we need to work together!
2. Scopes of Practice of the Two Professions
The Audiologist definitely has the larger, more comprehensive scope of practice. In addition to the mainstream adult population, the Audiologist is trained to test hearing in all populations, including infants, the mentally disabled, and those who cannot respond to the typical hearing test. The HIS has a smaller scope of practice, largely limited to the mainstream adult population. The HIS, however, is a college-trained professional who is well equipped to test hearing, recommend, and dispense hearing aids with no ensuing harm to the public. This huge adult population accounts for the vast majority of the hearing-impaired population, and this population can aptly be served by either the HIS or Audiologist. It is this population in particular that is served within the area of private practice. The simple fact, however, is that the HIS and Audiologist are both professionals whose scopes of practice overlap considerably.
3. Education of the Two Professions
Audiologists spend 6-7 years studying for their profession, but not all these years are spent studying Audiology! In Canada, the Audiologist must have a Masters Degree. A Bachelors degree (BA or BSc) takes 4 years and a Masters degree (MA or MSc) takes another 2-3 years. There is generally no such thing as a Bachelors Degree in Audiology. While earning the Bachelors Degree, a student may hear about the field of Audiology and realize this wonderful occupation can be had with continued Master Degree studies. In reality, most Audiologists did not come out of Grade 12 thinking, “I want to become an Audiologist, and so I am going to school for 6-7 years to do this.” The HIS is engaged in the same arena of hearing health care as the Audiologist, but has 2-3 years of college training, not university training. Colleges train for vocations and applied skills, not for doing research. The HIS is trained specifically to test adult hearing and recommend and fit hearing aids. Therefore, it is not true that the Audiologist has adequate training and the HIS does not. There is simply more than one venue from which the public can choose for mainstream adult hearing health care concerns.
As for me, my PhD is in Audiology. I have taught at two university Audiology programs and two college HIS programs. I know and understand the curricula of both educational systems.
Ted Venema earned a BA in Philosophy at Calvin College in 1977, and an MA in Audiology at WesternWashingtonUniversityin 1988. He completed a PhD in Audiology at the Universityof Oklahomain 1993. He was an Assistant Professor at AuburnUniversityin Alabamafor the next two years. From 1995 until 2001, he worked at Unitron Hearing, where he conducted field trials on new hearing aids and gave presentations, domestically and abroad. During these years from 1995 until 2004 he taught in the Hearing Instrument Specialist (HIS) program at GeorgeBrownCollegein Toronto. From 2001 until 2006, Ted was an Assistant Professor of Audiology at the Universityof Western Ontario. In 2005, he developed and coordinates Canada’s 4th and most recent HIS program, at ConestogaCollegein Kitchener, Ontario. He continues to give outside presentations on hearing loss and hearing aids. Ted is the author of a textbook, Compression for Clinicians, published by Thomson Delmar Learning, and this book has been re-written, updated, and revised as a 2nd edition in 2006.