Audiologist Clinical and Educational
If your child has a hearing loss, an audiologist will be involved both inside and outside of the school setting. An audiologist is an expert in the prevention, identification, diagnosis, and evidence-based treatment of hearing, balance, and other auditory (hearing) disorders for people of all ages. This includes increasing listening skills, also referred to as listening habilitation.
The audiologist will evaluate your child’s hearing status. This evaluation will help determine the cause of hearing loss, the current level of hearing, and whether it is a stable (level of loss doesn’t change), fluctuating (hearing loss changes over time), or progressive condition (gets worse over time). The audiologist will then recommend next steps of action, including referring you to a medical expert if needed. This medical expert is called an otolaryngologist, also known as an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor.
The audiologist will also tell you about hearing assistive technology (HAT; HAT is discussed later in this guide) options appropriate for your child. They will fit, program, and maintain any chosen HAT.
Clinical vs. Educational Audiologists
There are two types of audiologists: clinical audiologists and educational audiologists. A clinical audiologist provides a health service, and as such, may be found in hospitals or clinics. If your child did not pass a hearing screening at birth, or your child’s pediatrician suspects a hearing loss, you are likely to be referred to a clinical audiologist. An educational audiologist provides school services, and as such, may be found in an education setting. They know how hearing and deafness affect access to education. If your child qualifies for special education services, an audiologist is probably going to be part of the evaluation process. They will also be part of the educational planning process that happens with a special education IFSP (individualized family service plan) for children birth to age three and are important members of Individualized education program (IEP) teams once your child transitions to school-age special education services. More information on IFSPs and IEPs is available in another section of this guide.
You may want to request a release form from both of these audiologists so that they can share information pertaining to your child with each other, and other professionals who are working with your child for educational and health purposes.
Clinical audiologists are responsible for diagnosing/identifying hearing loss/deafness, ongoing testing as needed, and fitting, programming, repairing, and maintaining hearing assistive technologies (HAT). They are exclusively responsible for managing the external part of implanted devices, and hearing aids or other technology. Discussions about specific hearing technologies are in the Technology section of this guide.
The educational audiologist will assist the child and family with educational needs in the classroom and any goals in the IFSP and IEP, assure hearing assistive technology (HAT) is functional.
Both Clinical and Educational Audiologists:
- have similar degrees and education.
- understand how deafness and hearing difficulties impact communication, language, and literacy development.
- can explain your child’s current functional hearing.
- perform assessments and interpret data related to auditory functions.
- can refer families and school staff to other experts, such as speech-language pathologists (SLP) and otolaryngologists (ENT).
- can advise your child’s Individualized education program (IEP) or Individualized family service plan (IFSP) team about decisions regarding assistive technology (AT), education, and daily living.
- will work together to fulfill the needs of families and children who are deaf/hard of hearing (D/HH).
Evaluations by Audiologists
Audiologists perform a variety of assessments and evaluations throughout your child’s life and monitor your child’s hearing to determine if his or her hearing has changed and whether different or additional supports are needed. You can request the results of these assessments and evaluations. They will be needed in order for your child to receive services in and outside of school.
Want More Information About Assessments, Evaluations, and Audiological Testing?
The Outreach Center for Deafness and Blindness at OCALI has developed a resource that explains the educational assessment process. Pages 11-15 of this guide provide more information on the assessments performed by an audiologist in the educational setting.
Guidelines for the Assessment and Educational Evaluation of Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing