Of the many schools of medicine, audiology is one of the most unique and fascinating. If you've ever wondered about how the ear works and how the brain processes the sounds around us, audiology may be the field that you are looking for. While most people think that audiologists are limited to fitting devices into people's ears after a hearing test, there is a broad spectrum of services that the field offers.
Audiology generally covers all bodily processes related to the ear. While a hearing test gives an audiologist clues about a person's responsiveness to sound, there are many underlying factors that can cause problems with a person's interpretation of sound and speech. The ear itself can be infected or damaged, which can be treated medically or sometimes not be valued at all. Other problems may be psychological; there are many mental disorders that keep the brain from properly interpreting words and recognizing speech patterns.
For these reasons, an audiologist usually must have a good background in speech pathology or communication disorders. Most students who wish to eventually practice in audiology seek out undergraduate degrees in these fields as they offer a solid base for further studies. For an audiologist to practice on his own, the next step is to acquire the professional degree of Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.). These programs are pursued instead of a Masters degree. Most require a bachelor's degree related to the field, but some schools offer combined study programs that last for about 5 years.
With this degree intact, a Doctor of Audiology has a few routes to take. For those who do not wish to practice as a doctor, there is much research being done on the complex study of hearing. Test scenarios are constantly being developed to help understand the way that the brain processes sound. Much research is being done with stem cells in hopes of finding a way to restore damage to the ear that as of now is permanent. Speech disorders are still very much a mystery in many cases and remain a constant subject of study to researchers across the globe.
If an audiologist seeks to work at a clinic, he will first need certification. Some certifications are required to practice, while others can improve a doctor's craft and make him more reliable. Most clinical doctors deal with older patients, giving them a hearing test and fitting them with assistive technology systems. Some specialize in rare cases, working with cochlear implants to help the deaf or children with speech disorders. Some audiologists focus on creating new solutions for the working world; employees that must work in loud conditions often need protective gear to keep their ears safe.
Whatever an audiologist does in his daily life, he fills an important role in society. As sound plays such an important part in human life, it is important for people to have resources to keep their ears functioning and healthy. If you are interested in this field of study, know that you have many options that are all very desired by the world at large.