Audiologist vs. Hearing Aid Dispenser: What’s the Difference?

12/12/2019 | Patient Resources

If you owned a BMW, would you have it serviced by some cheap garage behind some warehouse in a seedy part of town or by a BMW certified service center? Because you understand that the certified service center has the unique qualifications to provide the very best care for your car, you would trust your BMW to their care. This illustration provides a simplified explanation of the difference between an audiologist and a hearing aid dispenser. Let me lead you on a closer examination of the differences between a licensed audiologist and a common hearing aid dispenser.


Both hearing aid dispensers and audiologists can help you with choosing design selection and with the fitting of hearing instruments and assisted listening devices of various types. They both conduct hearing tests and they both have the capacity to serve adult patients who require hearing assistance from a hearing instrument. That is as far as I can take the similarities.

Level of Care

An audiologist is a doctor with a license to practice their specific type of health care, allowing them to go beyond conducting a general hearing test to sell you a hearing aid. The advanced training of a doctor of audiology allows them to conduct a broad range of diagnostic audiologic evaluations like:

  • hearing sensitivity
  • speech understanding
  • middle and inner ear function
  • auditory nerve function

In short, the advanced care provided by an audiologist reaches far beyond the expertise and most basic qualifications of a hearing aid dispenser, including the fact that a doctor of audiology has the qualifications to treat all types of patients, even children.

Unique Qualifications of an Audiologist

Doctors of audiology separate ourselves from common hearing aid dispensers in understanding and expertise. There are numerous qualifications unique to audiologists for serving our patients including:

  • Legally Authorized to Bill Medicaid, Medicare, and Insurance Companies
  • Cochlear Hearing Implants (candidacy exams and programming)
  • Ototoxic Monitoring (chemotherapy, radiation, other auditory threat related treatments)
  • Balance and Dizziness Disorders (diagnostic assessment and vestibular rehabilitation)
  • Auditory Processing Assessments
  • Classroom Amplification Systems (design, selection, installation, monitoring)
  • Aural Rehabilitation Therapy (instrument aided, non-aided, auditory processing disorders)
  • Cerumen (earwax) Management
  • Tinnitus Evaluation and Management
  • Patient and Family Counseling (relating to diagnosis and treatment)
  • Hearing Conservation Programs (development and implementation)
  • Ototoxic and Vestibulatoxic Substance Abuse Education and Prevention
  • Research and Development of Evaluation Techniques and Rehabilitation Strategies

These distinctive qualities, unique to doctors of audiology, reach beyond selling you a hearing aid and into advanced hearing care not available from a hearing aid dispenser.

The difference between hearing aid dispensers and audiologists is significant. While one has the capacity to plaster over the problem and fit you with a hearing aid, the other seeks to provide you with far-reaching auditory solutions. My La Grande patients receive much more than hearing aids at
Audiology and Hearing Aids Associates. In addition to being fitted with the right devices to meet their needs, my patients receive years of after-care, follow-up appointments, and the qualified experience and expertise of a doctor dedicated to healthy hearing.

Contact me to learn more about the hearing healthy solutions I provide at Audiology and Hearing Aid Associates.

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Erika Shakespeare CCC-A

Erika Shakespeare, CCC-A, specializes in pediatric and adult diagnostics and amplification. Working with adults to help manage tinnitus and hearing loss since 2002, she is an expert in both of these areas. Additionally, she is a pediatric audiology mentor and educator for pediatric audiologists across the country and is one of the most respected experts on pediatric audiology.

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