With the many differences in professional titles in the medical field, it’s essential that you get the right one to help you with your diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss. Many people don't question the qualifications of the person that screens their hearing, puts them through hearing tests or even fits them with their new hearing aid – and they certainly don’t ask for more information. 

The problem with this is that unless you know the person who has done all of the above, how are you supposed to know which is the right professional for you them?

It’s essential to understand the distinction between the common hearing health professionals, which may include a hearing instrument specialist, hearing aid dispenser or audiologist, so that you know that you have the right person treating your hearing loss. There is a big difference between the professionals, and the more you understand those differences, the better off you will be in the long-term as you will know that you are getting the best possible care.

Hearing instrument specialist

A hearing instrument specialist is required to graduate from high school and must complete a certification program. Some states require this professional to complete an Associate’s degree. Hearing instrument specialists spend a significant portion of their training learning how to do on-the-job tasks, including basic hearing testing, hearing aid selection and fitting, as well as hearing aid maintenance and repairs.

These professionals are well-versed in finding the best piece of technology for your specific needs. Whether you are considering a behind-the-ear (BTE) model or prefer something discreet like an in-the-canal (ITC) device, a hearing instrument specialist will be able to educate you thoroughly on your options and ensure you get the features most beneficial for your hearing loss. 

Hearing aid dispensers

Hearing aid dispensers are not the same as hearing instrument specialists. They have been licensed to perform audiometric testing, but this is for the goal of selling and fitting hearing aids. In order to get their license to distribute and sell hearing aids, they must pass an exam, and before taking it, they have individual requirements that must be met. 

These requirements aren’t the same for every state, so what a hearing aid dispenser must know and do in one state they may not have to in another. In some states, hearing aid dispensers must have had at least two years of education at a college level to be able to distribute and sell hearing aids. 


Hearing instrument specialists are trained in a way that hearing aid dispensers are not. They can diagnose and treat your hearing disorder, and they can also monitor your hearing issue in the long term to know how your hearing will improve. A hearing instrument specialist is trained in a variety of areas, including:

  • Acoustics
  • Psychophysics
  • Auditory rehabilitation
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Amplification devices

At the very minimum, your hearing instrument specialist of choice will be highly qualified with an undergraduate degree, doctorate-level degree and a supervised externship before they can even gain their licensing. National certifications are also a must for your hearing instrument specialist, and when you see evidence of these qualifications, you know that they have undergone eight years of higher education to get to where they are now. Their ability to diagnose and treat your hearing disorder is born of years of training and practice hours, and they know how to diagnose and treat your hearing disorder by the time you need their help. 

When they go through graduate school, a hearing instrument specialist will have concentrated on the medical and diagnostic aspects of hearing loss, as well as the rehabilitative side of things. They will also continue to learn and educate themselves on the up-to-date hearing practices and how they can do better in their field. They must meet specific criteria to maintain their state license to practice, too, so you know that any hearing instrument specialist that you approach is going to be educated and knows how to handle your hearing problem.

At Affordable Audiology & Hearing Service, we understand it’s important you find the type of professional you need to address your hearing loss issues. That’s why our audiologists have the training and experience to help you with a host of issues, whether it is hearing loss, tinnitus, balance problems or earwax buildup. You can learn more about Affordable Audiology & Hearing Service by calling (920) 267-5220 for an appointment today.