Most people have heard of an audiologist and know in general what that means, but not many people understand what an otologist is and what the difference is between an otologist and an audiologist.

First of all, the term “ear doctor” is often used interchangeably between certain professions, usually by the general public.

“Ear doctor” can mean many things. When a person says ear doctor they may be talking about an ENT (ear, nose, and throat specialist), audiologist, otologist, or perhaps even a general hearing aid specialist.

However, when you are a patient or start having to deal with making different appointments with different specialists, it’s important to understand the difference and what each profession specializes in.

What is an Otologist?

An otologist is a highly trained physician or surgeon that has special training in how to diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries related to the ears. For instance, otologist receive more in depth education on the physical aspects of the ear and how it works.

They understand how the ear should work normally but also understand most of what can go wrong with the ear and how to treat those issues specifically.

Not all otologists perform surgery on ears but most do. Because of this, otologists often work closely with audiologists (who are not physicians or surgeons) to treat certain conditions of the ear.

How Does Otology Differ from Audiology?

The differences between an audiologist and otologist are quite large. The main thing that separates them is their level of education.

Audiologist must only complete a doctor or audiology degree, which is a doctorate but does not make them physicians because it is not a medical degree.

Otologists on the other hand, obtain a medical degree. In addition to completing college, medical school and surgical training, they must also complete a four-year residency program and a two-year otology fellowship.

Otologists are held to the high standard of all highly trained medical professionals. Audiologist are held to a high standard, but it is one of the audiological profession, which is not that of the medical profession.

Audiologists have the job of testing and evaluating individuals for hearing loss and balance issues. They are usually the one to diagnose problems with the ear.

Because of this, audiologists oftentimes refer patients to an otologist if they believe the hearing loss or balance issue can be treated medically or surgically.

Audiologists are able to treat hearing loss and balance issues that are not medically treatable. They may use hearing aids and various therapies to help patients recover as many normal abilities as possible.

Because each profession has it’s own specialties and they both work with hearing, balance, and issues related to the ear, it’s important that both types of professionals know when they can treat the issue the patient has and when they need to refer the patient to the other professional.

In some clinics and specialty practices, audiologists and otologists work side by side to give patients the best individualized care possible.

Audiologists and otologists make up a system which is set up to treat all kinds of patients with all kinds of issues.