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What is an ear doctor called?

Last update on Mar, 14, 2024

Are you experiencing hearing loss and wondering where to turn for help? You may even be wondering if there are different types of professionals for hearing loss. First of all, know that hearing loss is very common—and not just among older adults. In fact, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, one in eight people over the age of 12 in the United States has hearing loss in both ears. That’s approximately 30 million people nationwide.

However, hearing loss does often increase with age—there’s even a specific term for it: presbycusis. Nearly 25 percent of people 65-74 years old have disabling hearing loss, and that statistic jumps to 50 percent in those who are 75 and older.

If you’re having trouble hearing—or experiencing other issues, like ear pain or a ringing in your ears—it’s worth seeing a hearing care specialist. But who should you see? What is an ear doctor called? There are many different types of professionals and doctors specialized in hearing loss. Learning more about the different types of hearing specialists and ear doctors can make a difference in your journey toward better hearing.

Audiologist (AuD or PhD)

Audiology is the science of hearing and balance—and an audiologist is a healthcare professional whose training allows them to evaluate, diagnose, treat and manage hearing loss, balance issues and other ear-related problems. They can test your hearing and determine the level and type of hearing loss you’re experiencing.

Though they aren’t physicians, audiologists complete doctoral degrees in audiology, followed by a clinical fellowship, earning certification and obtaining a license to practice in a specific state. Their profession requires continuing education, and they can also receive certification from the American Board of Audiology or other certification institutions.

Audiologists can be generalists, treating anyone from infants to the elderly. Or, they can specialize further in areas like pediatrics (more on this below), geriatrics, tinnitus, hearing aids and auditory processing, among other specialties.

If you’re struggling with hearing loss or other hearing-related concerns, seeing an audiologist is a great place to start. These healthcare professionals are well-equipped to administer hearing tests and assess results, develop a care plan and address specialized issues like ringing in the ears (also known as tinnitus).

According to the American Academy of Audiology, audiologists are the only qualified professionals who can diagnose auditory processing disorders, or “hidden hearing loss.” Audiologists are licensed to fit, dispense and program hearing aids and other listening devices.

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Miracle-Ear audiologists

Audiology is a science that looks at hearing and balance related disorders. Meet our in-house audiologists who provide insight on hearing health, hearing loss and hearing aids. 

Meet our expert audiologists

Pediatric Audiologist (AuD)

A pediatric audiologist has all the same qualifications listed above—but they’ve also sought a specialty in pediatric hearing loss, or treatment for infants and children who are deaf and hard of hearing. With this specialty, they tend to be more adept in offering family-friendly, age-appropriate  hearing evaluations, including newborn hearing screenings and follow-ups, cochlear implant evaluations and speech-language evaluations.

If you have a child (newborn to age 18) who is dealing with hearing loss, speech delays or other hearing-related issues, consider scheduling an appointment with a pediatric audiologist. They can help determine if hearing aids or cochlear implants are the right choice for your child. And don’t delay—early diagnosis can help reduce the effect hearing loss can have on communication and overall development.

If hearing loss is part of a larger diagnosis, your pediatric audiologist can work alongside the rest of your care team—including pediatric physicians, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, social workers, psychologists and even classroom teachers—to develop an individual treatment plan that gives you and your child the support and care they need.

Hearing instrument specialist (HIS)

A hearing instrument specialist (HIS), also known as a hearing aid specialist, is a healthcare professional who can administer hearing tests, interpret the results, fit hearing aids and perform related tasks—like programming hearing aids and making ear-mold impressions for custom-fit hearing aids.

An HIS is not a doctor, but these hearing health professionals are licensed by states after completing training and a competency exam. Though licensure requirements vary by state, many require the completion of a two-year apprenticeship, with guidelines developed by the International Hearing Society.

If you think you might need hearing aids, an HIS can make this simple by testing your hearing, determining your level and type of hearing loss and fitting you for hearing aids. They can also provide follow-up care, helping tailor the programming and fit to your particular lifestyle and situation. At Miracle-Ear, you can generally get an appointment with an HIS within a week. Find a store near you.

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Otolaryngologist (ENT)

An otolaryngologist—or ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT)—is a physician who specializes in diagnosing, treating and providing surgical care for issues related to your head and neck—including the ears, nose, throat, thyroid and sinuses. In relation to ears, ENTs can assess your hearing issues and determine treatment options. If a hearing test or hearing aids are necessary, they may refer you to an audiologist.

ENTs attend medical school, followed by a five-year residency, after which they can provide surgical and nonsurgical care. ENTs who further specialize in ears are called otologists or neurotologists. More on this specialty below.

There are many reasons a person might see an otolaryngologist. They diagnose and treat relatively minor issues, like a persistent sore throat, chronic cough or runny nose, dizziness and allergies. But they’re also qualified to treat issues such as head and neck tumors, sleep apnea, vertigo and nasal polyps—plus hearing-related issues like Ménière’s disease, otosclerosis, Eustachian tube dysfunction, tinnitus and ruptured eardrums.


Otologists are otolaryngologists or ENTs who have chosen to further specialize in ears. These medical doctors complete an additional two-year fellowship, which trains them to treat more complex ear surgeries and conditions.

Due to an otologist’s specialization, they’re qualified to treat all types of ear and hearing-related issues, both common and complex. An otologist is the doctor who would perform the surgery to place the internal component of a cochlear implant. But they can also treat hearing loss non-surgically when appropriate, and treat conditions such as otosclerosis, acoustic neuromas and chronic ear infections.

To see an otologist, you’ll likely need a referral from your primary care physician or ENT. 


A neurotologist is very similar to an otologist. They complete the same specialized fellowship beyond their otolaryngology residency. However, the difference is that while otologists specialize in performing complicated ear surgeries and diagnosing middle ear issues, a neurotologist focuses on neurological-related and inner ear concerns. However, because these areas of expertise have so much overlap, many doctors who complete this fellowship are both neurotologists and otologists.

You may be referred to a neurotologist for hearing loss that requires surgical intervention, like a cochlear implant or bone conduction hearing aids. They also treat balance disorders and operate on skull base tumors.
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Do you know which hearing doctor to see?

If you’re not sure which type of hearing doctor or specialist to see for your concerns, consider visiting a Miracle-Ear hearing aid center. Our hearing care professionals offer free hearing tests and will talk you through your results. They can discuss your concerns, help fit you with hearing aids or help guide you to the appropriate specialist. Book an appointment at a local Miracle-Ear store.

Frequently asked questions about hearing doctors

While audiologists and hearing instrument specialists can both conduct hearing tests for the purpose of a hearing aid, assess results and fit patients with hearing aids, the difference is in their level of training. Hearing instruments specialists undergo training and licensure, but audiologists have a doctorate degree, complete a clinical fellowship and are board-certified. They can treat concerns beyond hearing loss, like balance issues and tinnitus.

Audiologists are not physicians, nor medical doctors, but they do have doctoral degrees in audiology and complete clinical training and certification before being licensed to practice.

An ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor, otolaryngologist, otologist, or neurotologist is what you would call an “ear doctor.” ENTs who have further specialization in ears are called otologists and neurotologists. Audiologists are clinically trained hearing specialists. While they aren’t physicians, they do hold doctoral degrees and are trained and certified to treat hearing-related health concerns. 
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