Difference Between Audiologist & Speech Therapist

Audiologists and speech therapists are medical professionals who perform some similar duties, but they address different medical issues. This article explores the differences in how audiologists and speech therapists use their skills.

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Comparing Audiologists to Speech Therapists

Audiologists and speech therapists, also known as speech-language pathologists, both work with individuals with health issues related to communication. Audiologists focus on patients with hearing loss or issues related to balance, while speech therapists work with people who have difficultly communicating verbally or trouble swallowing.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2014-2024)*
Audiologist Doctoral Degree $75,980 29%
Speech Therapist Master's Degree $74,680 for Speech-Language Pathologist 21% for Speech-Language Pathologist

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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  • Audiology and Hearing Sciences
  • Speech-Language Pathology

Responsibilities of Audiologists vs. Speech Therapists

Some of the general tasks that audiologists and speech therapists do are very similar. They see patients and assess their condition. They determine the correct diagnosis and the best way to treat their patients. They also keep medical files with records of the tests performed, the test results, the treatments used and the progress their patients have made. Audiologists may specifically examine a patient's ear and do tasks such as show a patient how to use a hearing aid, while speech therapists may use exercises to help patients improve their ability to form specific sounds and improve their ability to speak.

Audiologist

Audiologists treat patients with issues that may be causing them to have problems such as vertigo. They focus on the components of the inner ear to identify the cause of the issues that are affecting patients. Audiologists are required to have a doctoral degree in their field, as well as a license. Most audiologists work in medical offices, and their hours may expand into evenings and weekends depending on where they work.

Job responsibilities of an audiologist include:

  • Performing tests on patients
  • Diagnosing the patient's condition
  • Developing a treatment plan for the patient
  • Helping patients find alternative methods of communication
  • Prescribing hearing aids or implants

Speech Therapist

Speech therapists must have a master's degree in speech-language pathology and have a license. Listening skills are a valuable asset for speech therapists, since they spend their time working with people who have difficulty communicating. Speech therapists primarily work for school systems or in medical offices. Those who work for school systems often travel from location to location during the day.

Job responsibilities of a speech therapist include:

  • Assessing patients
  • Determining specific speech or swallowing issues affecting patient
  • Evaluating treatment methods
  • Using exercises and treatments to improve a patient's muscle strength
  • Prescribing treatment
  • Updating patient records

Related Careers

Since audiologists and speech therapists are both involved with treating patients, those interested in these professions may also be interested in a career as an optometrist or occupational therapist. Optometrists examine a patient's eyes and diagnose vision-related issues, while occupational therapists work with patients who may need to relearn skills. For example, they may teach a stroke victim how to button clothes.

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