In the state of Pennsylvania, there are two different licenses that will allow you to sell hearing aids, an Audiology License and a Hearing Aid Dispensing License. The training and education that you need to obtain these licenses are very different. These differences are often misunderstood by the general public and will be explored below.
In 2007, the degree requirement to become a clinical audiologist was changed. A Master’s degree was no longer acceptable to obtain licensure and all audiologists were now required to obtain a clinical doctoral degree. At this time, if one wanted to become an Audiologist or an Au.D., they would now need to first complete a bachelor’s degree in Speech and Audiology, Communication Disorders, or a related field. Upon completion of a Bachelor’s degree, a candidate would then apply for a doctoral program which is an additional 4 years of school. Doctoral coursework includes many topics such as: education, anatomy and physiology of the ear and hearing, the science of sound, the diagnosis and treatment of hearing and vestibular disorders, hearing aids and their progression from analog to digital devices, programming and adjusting hearing aids, and counseling and treatment of adults and children of all ages with hearing loss. Within those classes you learn about candidacy for treatment options, one of the most common of which is hearing aids. However, the treatment of hearing loss is not limited to just hearing aids but also includes cochlear implants, bone anchored hearing devices and implantable hearing devices. Audiologists get the opportunity to do clinical rotations in a variety of settings which can help to determine one’s career path. Some of these settings could include working with an Otolaryngologist or more commonly called an ear, nose and throat physician. Another possible clinical training setting for doctoral candidates is in a hospital. When doing clinical internships, a doctoral candidate would perform testing, fitting and dispensing hearing aids on adults or children. They could also conduct inter-operative monitoring, vestibular testing & rehabilitation, might also work with outside businesses to adhere to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. The candidate may also choose to use the business management training and clinical experience to open up a private office in the community. When a candidate finishes their Doctorate of Audiology, they will then obtain their Pennsylvania clinical audiology license. It is then in their scope of practice to dispense and sell hearing aids as stated by Pennsylvania medical guidelines.
The other way one can legally dispense hearing aids in the state of Pennsylvania is to obtain a Hearing Aid Dispensing license. To obtain this license, there is a high school level educational requirement, and the candidate must find another licensed Hearing Aid Dispenser to conduct an internship with. During the internship, the candidates are taught to program and adjust hearing aids. They are also taught to instruct adults on the use and expectations of hearing aids. Most of the time, this internship is done with someone who was willing to hire the candidate work and sell hearing aids at the same office. When the internship is complete, that candidate must then sit for a written state test. Upon passing that test, they are awarded a Hearing Aid Dispensing license for the state of Pennsylvania.
When choosing a licensed hearing aid dispenser, it is up to the customer’s discretion which of these two licensed dispensers to choose. It is important for the customer to realize the different level of educational requirements and clinical knowledge between the two. Not all hearing aid dispensers are created equal, and it is important for a customer to be able to distinguish between them. If you are in the market for a hearing aid, I hoped this article helped you to be able to make a more informed decision on your purchase.