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WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A HEARING INSTRUMENT PRACTITIONER
By Ted Venema PhD
1. Meeting Hearing Health care Needs with the Two Professions
The number of hearing health care professionals is dismally low when considering the
vast numbers of the aging population with hearing impairment. Look at the imminent bulge of the aging baby boomers! The public’s hearing health care needs must be addressed by the combined presence of both the Hearing Instrument Practitioner (HIP) and the Audiologist. The HIP, more than the Audiologist, is likely to be found in smaller communities throughout Canada. Given these facts, we need to work together!
2. Scopes of Practice of the Two Professions
The Audiologist definitely has the larger, more comprehensive scope of practice. In addition to the mainstream adult population, the Audiologist is trained to test hearing in all populations, including infants, the mentally disabled, and those who cannot respond to the typical hearing test. The HIP has a smaller scope of practice, largely limited to the mainstream adult population. The HIP, however, is a college-trained professional who is well equipped to test hearing, recommend, and dispense hearing aids with no ensuing harm to the public. This huge adult population accounts for the vast majority of the
hearing-impaired population, and this population can aptly be served by either the HIP or Audiologist. It is this population in particular that is served within the lucrative area of private practice. The simple fact, however, is that the HIP and Audiologist are both professionals whose scopes of practice overlap considerably.
3. Education of the Two Professions
Audiologists spend 6-7 years studying for their profession, but not all these years are spent studying Audiology! In Canada, the Audiologist must have a Masters Degree. A Bachelors degree (BA or BSc) takes 4 years and a Masters degree (MA or MSc) takes another 2-3 years. There is generally no such thing as a Bachelors Degree in Audiology. While earning the Bachelors Degree, a student may hear about the field of Audiology and realize this wonderful occupation can be had with continued Master Degree studies. In reality, most Audiologists did not come out of Grade 12 thinking, “I want to become an
Audiologist, and so I am going to school for 6-7 years to do this.” The HIP is engaged in the same arena of hearing health care as the Audiologist, but has 2-3 years of college training, not university training. Colleges train for vocations and applied skills, not for doing research. The HIP is trained specifically to test adult hearing and recommend and fit hearing aids. Therefore, it is not true that the Audiologist has adequate training and the HIP does not. There is simply more than one venue from which the public can choose for mainstream adult hearing health care concerns.
As for me, my PhD is in Audiology. I have taught at two university Audiology programs and two college HIP programs. I know and understand the curricula of both educational systems.