In the state of Kentucky, both Audiologists and hearing instrument specialists hold state licensure which allow the practitioner to sell and dispense hearing aids. The requirement for state licensure is based on the need to protect the well-being of the patient. While both types of professionals are licensed to work with hearing aids, the steps necessary to obtain licensure are significantly different between professionals.
A Doctor of Audiology is the highest-trained individual in regards to diagnostic evaluations, testing, hearing aid evaluations, and rehabilitation of non-medical hearing loss. At minimum, Audiologists complete an undergraduate and graduate training program and a supervised clinical fellowship prior to obtaining state licensure.
Since 2007, Audiologists have been required to obtain a clinical doctorate, known as the Au.D. (Doctor of Audiology) degree, before entering the profession. The transition to the Au.D. degree reflects the increasing scope of practice for Audiologists, and the need for further training given the major advances in technology and professional responsibilities. During their Au.D. program, most Audiologists complete clinical rotations in a wide variety of practice settings, including hospitals, private clinics, schools, and industrial settings. Before obtaining state licensure, Audiologists must pass a national examination of core competencies in the diagnosis and management of hearing and balance disorders.
Audiologists now complete at least 8 years of college before being eligible to practice (4-year undergraduate degree, 4-year Au.D. program).
Hearing instrument specialists are also licensed by the state of Kentucky; however, the process of obtaining licensure is significantly different than that of an Audiologist. To obtain licensure as a hearing instrument specialist, the practitioner must be a graduate of an accredited high school or its equivalent, complete a apprenticeship program which consists of at least 12 months of training under the direct supervision on a licensed hearing instrument specialist, and pass a licensure examination.
Due to the various cause of hearing loss including medical issues, it is highly suggested that all diagnostic testing be completed by a licensed Audiologist trained to fully comprehend results and ensure that adequate testing is completed case by case.