700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

What’s the Difference Between an Audiologist and Speech Language Pathologist?

Jul 11, 2019
Little boy wearing a hearing aid

While pediatric audiologists and speech language pathologists each serve different roles, they often work together to track a child’s progress and make adjustments to hearing devices or therapy to best serve a child and their family.

Audiologists specialize in completing evaluations of hearing and in helping people manage their hearing loss. A pediatric audiologist has had special training in completing hearing evaluations and fitting hearing devices for children of all ages.

Pediatric speech language pathologists work with children of all ages who have a variety of communication disorders. Some speech language pathologists specialize in working with children with hearing loss and supporting communication development while working closely with the ENTs and audiologists on the team.

Why Is Hearing Important for Speech and Language Development?

In order for a child’s brain to learn new sounds and words, it has to hear them first! Children can have many different degrees of hearing loss that effect how they hear and understand speech:

  • Mild – This child may have difficulty listening when it’s noisy and may not be able to hear or understand some speech sounds.
  • Moderate – This child will only be able to understand speech if he or she can see the speaker’s face.
  • Moderately-Severe to Severe – This child will miss most or all of speech, even if he or she can see the speaker’s face. He or she may not hear voices unless the speech is very loud.
  • Profound – This child may not be able to hear even very loud sounds. He or she will respond mostly to sight and vibrations.

The greater the degree of hearing loss, the more likely a child will experience delays in speech and language development, as well as the development of reading skills! 

How Do Audiologists and Speech Pathologists Work Together to Support Children with Hearing Loss?

The audiologist’s primary role is to help patients and their family members on their communication journey by:

  • Providing a hearing test to see if hearing loss is present and, if so, how much exists and what part of the ear may be causing the hearing loss
  • Helping patients and family members understand the different ways a child with hearing loss can communicate (e.g., spoken language, American Sign Language, Total Communication, etc.)
  • Working with the family to choose the most appropriate hearing device to support communication
  • Programming hearing devices to give the child the ability to hear new words and sounds so that the brain can learn to say them

The speech language pathologist’s primary role is to help patients and their family members on their communication journey by:

  • Helping patients and family members understand how the hearing loss will impact the child’s ability to learn to communicate in different settings including home and school and quiet versus noisy environments
  • Teaching parents ways to help their child learn to listen and talk
    • Completing listening checks to determine if a child’s hearing devices are working
    • Helping children learn to listen with their hearing device(s)
    • Helping children produce their speech sounds correctly
    • Helping children learn to understand and use language
    • Helping children learn the skills needed for reading
  • Helping patients and family members teach others about the child’s hearing loss

The audiologists and speech pathologists in the Hearing Program at Nationwide Children work with each other often to track a child’s progress and make adjustments to a hearing device or therapy to best serve the child and their family! To learn more about the program, click here.

Featured Expert

Janelle Huefner
Janelle Huefner, MA, CCC-SLP
Speech Pathology

Janelle Huefner, MA, CCC-SLP, is a board certified speech-language pathologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She received her master’s degree in communicative disorders and sciences and has been a practicing pediatric speech language pathologist for 20 years in hospitals, home-based early intervention programs, educational settings including private, public and charter schools as well as private practice.

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Lauren Durinka, AuD

Lauren Durinka, AuD, is an outpatient pediatric audiologist at Nationwide Children's Hospital. She received a bachelor of arts degree in speech and hearing science with a minor in disability studies from The Ohio State University. Lauren went on to complete her doctorate in audiology at The Ohio State University. Lauren is passionate about providing excellent family-centered care to all patients. Her clinical interests include diagnostic evaluations, electrophysiology, and hearing aids.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.