Audiologist - What They Do

Audiologists diagnose, evaluate and treat individuals with peripheral and central hearing loss, tinnitus and balance problems. Speech-language pathologists diagnose, assess and treat human communication disorders including speech, fluency, language, voice and swallowing disorders. Audiologists and speech-language pathologists are employed in hospitals, community and public health centres, extended care facilities, day clinics, rehabilitation centres and educational institutions, or may work in private practice. Audiologists and speech-language pathologists who are supervisors are included in this unit group.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:


  • Develop and administer audiometric tests and examinations using specialized instruments and electronic equipment to diagnose and evaluate the degree and type of patients' hearing impairment
  • Plan and implement habilitation/rehabilitation programs for patients, including selection, fitting and adjustment of amplification devices, such as hearing aids, balance retraining exercises and teaching speech (lip) reading
  • Educate and counsel patients and families regarding the nature, extent, impact and implications of hearing loss and treatment
  • Establish personalized care plans working as a member of an interdisciplinary team
  • Conduct research related to hearing and hearing disorders
  • May instruct and supervise audiometric technicians, students and other health care personnel.

Speech-language pathologists

  • Administer tests and examinations and observe patients to diagnose and evaluate speech, voice, resonance, language, fluency, cognitive-linguistic and swallowing disorders
  • Develop, plan and implement remedial programs to correct speech, voice, language, fluency, resonance, cognitive-linguistic and swallowing disorders
  • Establish group and personalized care plans working as a member of an interdisciplinary team
  • Educate and counsel patients and families regarding communication and swallowing disorders
  • Conduct research on speech and other communication disorders and on the development and design of diagnostic procedures and devices
  • May instruct and supervise communicative disorders assistants, students and other health care personnel.

Job titles

  • educational speech-language pathologist
  • certified audiologist
  • audiologist
  • speech therapist
  • research audiologist
  • clinical audiologist
  • speech-language clinician
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:

  • Audiologists require a master's degree in audiology.
  • Speech-language pathologists require a master's degree in speech-language pathology.
  • Registration with a regulatory body is required for audiologists and speech-language pathologists in New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.
  • Membership in the national association, Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists, is usually required.
  • In some jurisdictions, audiologists may be required to obtain a separate licence to dispense hearing aids.

Essential Skills


Audiologists and Speech-language Pathologists

  • Read e-mail from co-workers and colleagues. For example, they read messages confirming the details of meetings. They exchange advice and updates on patients' treatments with other specialists. (2)
  • Read notes and comments on forms and in patients' files. They read notes on intake and interview record forms to learn about patients' medical histories, family backgrounds, test results and planned treatment programs. They read case notes in patients' files to learn about health care professionals' observations and recommendations and patients' at-home assignments. (2)
  • Read referral letters from other health care professionals. They read these letters to learn about patients' hearing and speech conditions, the reasons they were referred and the medical opinions of referring practitioners. (2)
  • May read promotional materials for insurance plans, diagnostic equipment and training events. They read brochures on benefit programs and insurance plan descriptions to advise their patients about various entitlements. They may read promotional flyers from professional associations to learn about upcoming conferences. (2)
  • Read a variety of manuals for information on tests, assistive devices, office equipment and software. They read directions for administering tests and interpreting results in testing and assessment manuals. They read equipment manuals to identify and understand the functioning and capabilities of assistive devices. They read procedures for installing and troubleshooting software in software manuals. (3)
  • Read articles in newsletters and trade magazines to learn about new medical treatments, interventions and products. For example, audiologists may read about new hearing aids and programmable hearing devices in The Canadian Hearing Society's Quarterly Magazine. (3)
  • Read scientific articles and research reports in academic journals. For example, they may read the Journal of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology to learn about new treatments for conditions which may result in hearing loss and speech impairment They may read scientific papers to understand the research done, determine its' value and to incorporate applicable procedures into their clinical practices. (4)
  • Read medical reference texts for information they need to diagnose impairments and disabilities and identify useful therapies. For example, audiologists may read texts such as the Handbook of Clinical Audiology, Medication Compendium and the Handbook of Auditory Evoked Response to further their understanding of hearing impairment, auditory testing and medications' effects. Speech-language pathologists may read texts such as the Canadian Compendium of Pharmaceuticals, Clinical Management of Neurogenetic Communication Disorders and Language Intervention Strategies in Adult Aphasia when reviewing various communication disorders and corresponding treatments. (4)


  • Read provincial and federal regulations which affect the various aspects of their work. For example, they may read monthly Public Service Health Care Plan bulletins to learn about changes in benefits for hearing services for specific client groups such as veterans. (3)

Document use

  • Locate data in lists and tables. For example, they scan contact, class and waiting lists for the names, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of doctors, patients, departmental contacts and workshop participants. They view their calendars to determine available appointment times for clients' visits. They view tables showing the listening development of children organized by age, expected sound recognition and type of hearing losses. (1)
  • Complete a variety of forms. For example, they write names, addresses, phone numbers and other data on intake, treatment record and release of information forms. They complete medical insurance claims and medical referral forms. They enter test results such as audiogram readings for hearing discrimination into patients' treatment records. (2)
  • May refer to anatomical and assembly drawings. They refer to anatomical drawings of jaws, throats and ears to clarify their own understanding and to illustrate medical conditions for patients. They may use assembly drawings when putting together new assistive devices such as hearing aids. (2)
  • Interpret graphs. For example, audiologists review audiograms to gauge patients' hearing losses. They also interpret tympanograms to determine how well the middle ear is functioning. Speech-language pathologists interpret graphs of patients' speech to inform treatment plans. (3)


Audiologists and Speech-language Pathologists

  • Write reminders, notes to deaf patients and short comments on forms. For example, they write reminders about appointments in their daybooks. They write comments on patient intake forms during initial interviews and summaries of treatments on patients' treatment records after treatment sessions. Audiologists may write notes for deaf patients during treatment sessions. (1)
  • May prepare conference presentations on a variety of topics related to their practices. When they compose presentations, they consider audiences' interests and demographics, feedback received from prior presentations and the points they want to make. (3)
  • Write letters to medical specialists and insurance companies. For example, they write referral letters to medical specialists about concerns presented by patients, observations made, measurements taken and treatments attempted. Speech-language pathologists may write letters to insurance companies justifying the need for speech-language therapies and hearing aids for patients. They provide detailed test results and outline patients' responses to treatment programs. (3)
  • Write progress and evaluation reports. Speech-language pathologists may prepare progress reports for their supervisors and for the parents and teachers of children they are treating. They describe therapies they have used and progress made. They make recommendations for continuing treatments. They simplify the reports so lay readers can understand them. Audiologists write precise, technical evaluation reports describing their analyses of patients' hearing conditions for physicians and speech therapists. (3)
  • May write special project and annual reports. For example, audiologists may write reports on auditory services for children. They summarize their activities, treatment methods, patient outcomes, financial costs and provide recommendations. They summarize the services they have offered and outline problems encountered such as resistance to using therapy methods and equipment. They make recommendations such as increasing the number of consultations and outline the financial costs of implementing their recommendations. (4)

Speech-language Pathologists

  • Write information sheets for patients. For example, they write easy-to-read overviews of patients' problems, instructions for exercises that they can do at home and descriptions of treatment results they can expect. (3)
  • May write training manuals. For example, speech-language pathologists may write training manuals for users of assistive devices and specialized software used in therapy. They use plain language and vocabulary appropriate for their patients. (4)


Money Math

  • May calculate expense claim amounts for travel and incidental expenses. They calculate travel and meal expenses using per kilometre and per diem rates. (2)
  • may calculate invoice amounts and receive payments from patients. For example, they may prepare invoices for evaluation and intervention services. They multiply the number of hours worked by the hourly rates, add relevant taxes and calculate totals. They may also calculate invoice totals for products they receive. They verify quantities and prices and calculate line amounts, totals and taxes. (3)

Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math

  • Compare product features such as elimination of background noise and prices of assistive devices such as hearing aids from competing suppliers to determine best value for price. (2)
  • Schedule appointments according to the time required for various services. For example, they schedule times for initial intake and examination of patients, for testing and analyzing results and for training patients to use assistive equipment. (2)
  • Develop budgets, track income and monitor expenses. For example, they may calculate the number of patients seen, the amounts of money received for treatments and the costs of supplies. They monitor their income and expenses by entering amounts in financial spreadsheets. (3)

Measurement and Calculation Math


  • Use a variety of precise measuring instruments to determine hearing ability and sound level. For example, they measure hearing thresholds using digital audiometers. They measure the mobility and pressure of eardrums using tympanograms. They use otoacoust emission meters to measure newborns' hearing through the echo of sounds. They use electroencephalograms to measure electric currents created in responses to sounds and identify latency and amplitude. They use sound level meters to measure ambient noise in rooms. (3)

Speech-language Pathologists

  • measure children's language and learning abilities using cognitive and developmental tests. For example, they measure vocabulary development, verbal memory skills, articulation and morphological abilities and language disabilities. They may calculate basal and ceiling levels for language and speech tests by adding the number of correct and incorrect verbal responses. (3)

Data Analysis Math

  • Analyze test results. For example, audiologists compare the average number of words patients are able to hear in a variety of contexts to norms for their ages. Speech-language pathologists may compare patients' abilities to perceive sounds before and after receiving assistive devices. They may also compare patients' scores on language ability tests to norms for their age groups. (2)
  • Determine monthly and yearly trends in the numbers of patients treated and types of treatments provided. They display operational data tables and graphs to spot patterns and identify trends. (2)

Numerical Estimation

  • Estimate times required to carry out job tasks. For example, audiologists estimate times needed to clean and repair hearing aids. (2)
  • Estimate treatment and recovery times. For example, speech-language pathologists estimate times needed for patients to overcome swallowing disorders. (2)

Oral communication

Audiologists and Speech-language Pathologists

  • Communicate with various suppliers to place and track orders for office supplies, auditory prostheses and games used during medical interventions. (2)
  • Communicate with patients, parents, guardians and teachers of underage patients. For example, they explain test results to patients and recommend appropriate solutions using non-technical language. They explain their plans for treating students' speech, language and hearing disabilities to teachers. They instruct parents and teachers on the proper use of hearing devices with non-verbal and hard-of-hearing children. (3)
  • Consult other health professionals to collect and compare information about clients' medical conditions and test results. For example, to ensure a comprehensive diagnosis and suitable treatment plan, a speech-language therapist may consult an audiologist and a physician to gather information about a patient who has dysphagia. (3)
  • Speak to a variety of groups and organizations in their communities. For example, they may present information on new assistive devices, new products under development and improvements made to hearing devices. They usually respond to questions following their presentations. (3)


  • Communicate with technicians and other helpers during diagnostic and treatment sessions. For example, audiologists may ask technicians for assistance in entertaining children while they are monitoring them and conducting hearing tests. (2)

Speech-language Pathologists

  • Listen to patients' speech to diagnose abnormalities. For example, they may observe patients' conversations surreptitiously from behind one-way glass and listen through headphones. (1)
  • Interact with patients during diagnostic and treatment sessions. They gather information about patients' health and evaluate patients' cognitive abilities by asking questions. They model correct pronunciation and repeat words to encourage fluent speech. They adjust levels of language use to correspond to the ages and interests of patients. (3)


Problem Solving

  • Lose time and money when patients cancel and miss appointments. They reschedule treatment sessions and leave reminder messages for patients prior to appointments. (1)
  • May find that they have limited funds for resolving special situations such as clients' inability to purchase hearing devices. They review budgets for these expenses with their supervisors and discuss options for obtaining the necessary funds. (2)
  • Receive questionable readings from testing equipment. They check battery levels and connections between the testing equipment and computers. They follow troubleshooting steps in equipment manuals. If needed, they contact the equipment manufacturers' representatives. (2)
  • Encounter patients who are making limited progress on prescribed treatment plans. They re-evaluate patients' symptoms, determine if there have been any changes in medications and confirm that patients have been completing the prescribed exercises. They run further tests to identify and verify diagnoses, question patients and explain the importance of exercises. They may establish contracts with patients to ensure commitment to treatment plans. (3)

Decision Making

Audiologists and Speech-language Pathologists

  • Decide to refer patients to other medical specialists. They consider their own limitations and the needs of patients. (3)
  • Decide to accept new patients. They consider patients' disorders, the numbers of patients they are presently treating and their areas of expertise. If they accept patients outside their fields of expertise, they need to conduct research and to develop new tests and treatment programs. (3)
  • Choose diagnostic and treatment methods. They use information gathered during intake sessions to guide the selection of diagnostic methods. They consider the costs of various treatments and patients' willingness to travel to specialized treatment centres. (3)

Speech-language Pathologists

  • Decide which treatment settings would be most beneficial for patients with specific speech-language disorders. For example, they work with some patients on a one-to-one basis and others are treated in small groups. (2)

Critical Thinking

  • Evaluate the suitability of assistive devices for specific patients. They review the activities in which patients participate, levels of hearing losses, manufacturers' specifications, independent reviews of competing brands of devices and comments from patients. (2)
  • Evaluate the health of patients' hearing and speech production systems. They ask questions about patients' medical histories to determine if physical damage has occurred and conduct tests and examinations to detect the location of problems and any abnormalities. They use audiometers to determine degrees of hearing losses and speech tests to determine the levels at which the patients can detect and understand speech. (3)

Job Task Planning and Organizing

Own Job Planning and Organizing

Audiologists and speech-language pathologists plan their own job tasks and organize their own appointment schedules. They allocate time for testing patients, analyzing results and writing reports. Their schedules may have to be adjusted to co-ordinate their work with other health professionals involved with patients. Those working in clinics and hospitals contribute to the development of operational policies. (2)

Planning and Organizing for Others

Audiologists and speech-language pathologists may occasionally direct the activities of technicians in training. Those in private practice have additional responsibilities for planning the operations of their offices. (2)

Significant Use of Memory

  • Remember the names of patients and the details of their conditions in order to build trust and rapport.
  • Remember the responses to treatment programs so that they can apply what they learned to new cases.

Finding Information

  • Find information about communication pathologies and treatments by searching websites, databases and academic journals and by seeking the advice and opinions of co-workers and colleagues. (2)

Digital technology

  • Use word processing. For example, they use word processing programs such as Word to write and format referral letters and short progress reports. They use basic text editing and formatting features to create finished documents. (2)
  • May use graphics software. For example, they may use programs such as PowerPoint to create slide presentations and accompanying handouts. They insert pictures, sound and video clips to enhance their presentations. (2)
  • May use databases. For example, they may create databases to store patients' and colleagues' contact information. (2)
  • May use spreadsheets. For example, they may use existing spreadsheets to organize diagnostic and treatment data, to track income and expenditures and to generate monthly reports. Those in private practice may create spreadsheets to track operational data. (2)
  • Use communication software. For example, they exchange e-mail and attachments to co-workers, colleagues and clients. They sort and save e-mail in designated folders. Those using Outlook may enter appointments in on-line appointment schedules. (2)
  • Use the Internet. For example, they search through bookmarked sites for information on specific hearing and speech pathologies, technological changes to hearing prostheses and new techniques for treating disabilities. They may download games and sound effects if they work with children. (2)
  • Use other computer and software applications. For example, audiologists use specialized computer software to program hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists use various sound analysis programs such as Spectra Plus and Voice Tools to analyze the pitch and volume of patients' voices. They use specialized software for language development such as Speech Viewer, Lexivoc and Rapidolect to improve patients' reading and speaking abilities. They also use Kurzweil software to magnify text for partially-sighted patients. (2)

Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Most audiologists and speech-language pathologists work in medical settings as members of health service delivery teams. Although they work with individual patients most of the time, they coordinate job tasks with co-workers, colleagues from community agencies and other health professionals to provide care for patients. (2)

Continuous Learning

Continuous learning is an integral part of the work of audiologists and speech-language pathologists. They acquire new learning by reading medical textbooks, research reports, scientific articles in academic journals, government regulations and bulletins, professional association newsletters and by searching work-related websites. They discuss cases with co-workers, colleagues and physicians. They attend conferences and take courses to upgrade their knowledge and skills on medical advances and treatment techniques. (3)