The preparation to become a Hearing Aid Specialist can be attained through two pathways: the academic training model or the workplace training approach. Academic training is available at a few colleges in the U.S. and Canada. The workplace training model is a more common pathway for entry into the dispensing profession. It is on-the-job training or an apprenticeship program. This alternate approach is encouraged and supported not only by the International Hearing Society (IHS) but also by most states and Canadian provinces in their eligibility requirements for licensure. Many states and provinces have requirements for apprenticeship programs that must be completed in order for a candidate to be eligible to sit for the licensing examination, and recently the U.S. Department of Labor has released guidelines developed by the International Hearing Society for the registration of apprenticeship programs for hearing aid specialists. The knowledge and skill sets necessary for safe and effective clinical practice are acquired under the supervision of the appropriately licensed/registered hearing healthcare professional. Fundamental knowledge is gained through the IHS’ standardized curriculum, specifically, the Distance Learning for Professionals in Hearing Health Sciences course.
Department of Labor Certified Apprenticeship
The International Hearing Society has developed guidelines for the creation of hearing aid specialist apprenticeship programs. The guidelines, approved and released by the U.S. Department of Labor, are available for use by interested employers to establish a registered apprenticeship program. The guidelines contain everything needed to establish an apprenticeship program; and assistance is available from both your state apprenticeship agency and IHS. In addition to a nationally recognized, standardized approach to training, registered apprenticeships also carry potential financial incentives for both employers and apprentices. To learn more about the IHS-developed, DOL-certified apprenticeship, please visit the DOL-certified-apprenticeship page.
Education and Training
The International Hearing Society’s Distance Learning for Professionals in Hearing Health Sciences course is the premier study program for those considering a career in hearing care and for preparing for competency exams. Developed by leading practitioners and educators, students learn the fundamentals through the comprehensive curriculum based on the core competencies of the profession. When paired with on-the-job training and the IHS Total Training Solution, the course primes qualified students with a well-rounded background for safe and effective independent practice.
Once a student or apprentice has completed all of the qualifications for licensure as determined by their local jurisdiction’s laws and regulations, they may take the examination(s) that ultimately grant their status as a practitioner. Many jurisdictions use the International Licensing Examination for Hearing Health Professionals (the “ILE”) for the written competency test. The exam is practice-based, meaning that the questions require the candidate to understand and apply, analyze and evaluate experiences in everyday professional work. They can be answered correctly only when knowledge and skill are adequate in all aspects of patient/client care. A study guide is available to assist the candidate with exam preparation.
Another tool used by many professional governing bodies (licensing boards) is a practical examination. This is a hands-on demonstration of the essential technical skills needed to practice as a hearing aid specialist. For jurisdictions that require both written and practical exams, candidates must pass each to demonstrate that they can competently and safely perform the duties of a hearing aid specialist.
The Role of a Hearing Aid Specialist
The Hearing Aid Specialist is an allied health professional who has the training, knowledge and experience required to address the amplification needs of individuals with hearing loss. The primary employment responsibilities include:
- Administering and interpreting tests of auditory function
- Recommending amplification options
- Ear impressioning
- Fitting and dispensing hearing instruments
- Verifying and validating hearing instrument fittings
- Counseling regarding hearing loss
- Providing aural rehabilitation including options for assistive listening devices
- Providing comprehensive post-fitting care
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of Hearing Aid Specialists is expected to grow by 14 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. See more at: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-2092.00 An aging population is anticipated to lead to greater demand for hearing healthcare services. People usually have hearing health problems in greater frequency when they reach middle age, so the need for hearing instrument specialists is expected to grow with the increase in the number of older people. Hearing instrument specialists are finding employment in group or private practices.