Navigating the Credentials of Hearing Professionals

How to know who is who and what they do.

Professional "Titles" are protected which means a title can only be used by professionals who have earned the appropriate credentials. The general public often is not aware of the similarities and differences between Audiologists and Hearing Instrument Practitioners. Some questionable advertising tactics can add to the confusion (for e.g. telephone directories).

In British Columbia, hearing care professionals must be registered with the College of Speech and Hearing Health Professionals of BC (CSHHPBC). Audiologists must earn a minimum of a Masters degree in Audiology and obtain Registered Audiologist (RAUD) designation from the College. Hearing aid dispensers earn a minimum 2 to 3-year college diploma and must obtain Registered Hearing Instrument Practitioner (RHIP) designation from the College. Audiologists who dispense hearing aids must obtain both RAUD and RHIP designations from the College.

Audiologists and HIPs are not the same professional - although core educational content is similar, students obtain different levels, and different styles, of education. Professional titles cannot be used interchangeably. Anyone practising without proper registration, or anyone that is using a professional title inappropriately, should be reported to the Registrar of CSHHPBC.

Readers are encouraged to ask questions to make informed choices when selecting a hearing care provider. For more information, read descriptions below and review the Speech-Language and Audiology Canada (SAC) position statement about the hearing professions.

Regulated Hearing Professionals


Audiologists (RAUD)

  • Must be registered as an Audiologist with the College of Speech and Hearing Health Professionals of BC.
  • Earn a 4-year undergraduate university degree followed by an additional 2- or 3-year Masters (graduate) degree.
  • May earn a doctorate level degree - a Ph.D for those pursuing university or research positions or an Au.D. (Doctor of Audiology) which is a clinical professional doctorate degree.
  • Trained in identification, assessment, prevention, and non-medical treatment of hearing disorders.
  • Specialize in hearing-related disorders, physiology of speech and hearing organs, physics of sound, hearing loss, site of lesion testing, hearing conservation, hearing aids, assistive listening devices, aural rehabilitation, and treatment of hearing loss for all ages.
  • Perform auditory, central auditory, and vestibular testing.
  • Work closely with physicians, specialists, and hearing aid manufacturers.
  • Authorized to assess and treat all ages and special needs populations.

Hearing Instrument Practitioners (RHIP)

  • Must be registered as a Hearing Instrument Practitioner with the College of Speech and Hearing Health Professionals of BC.
  • Earn 2- or 3-year community college diploma (often online) in hearing science, hearing testing, hearing aids, assistive listening devices, and dispensing of these devices.
  • Work closely with hearing aid manufacturers.
  • Restricted to serving adult clients only unless advanced certification is granted from the provincial regulatory college (CSHHPBC).

Regulated Physicians & Specialists


Otolaryngologists / Otorhinolaryngologists (ENT)

  • Also referred to as Ear and Throat (otolaryn-) or Ear, Nose, and Throat (otorhinolaryn-) Specialists.
  • Most commonly referred to as ENT doctors.
  • Medical doctors who diagnose and medically treat diseases of the ear, nose, or throat (e.g. with medication or surgery).
  • Typically earn a 4-year undergraduate university degree followed by an additional 4-year medical degree and finish with a 4- to 5-year specialized residency program.
  • In Canada, ENTs are registered under the College of Physicians and Surgeons.
  • A referral from a family doctor or other attending physician is required to see an ENT.
  • Do not typically deal with hearing aids, hearing protection, or aural rehabilitation.

Neurotologists / Otologists

  • Specifically study and specialize in the ear and its connections to the brain.
  • Medical doctors who initially specialize in otolaryngology and then narrow their focus further to neurological conditions of the ear, related structures, and lateral skull base surgery.
  • In Canada, this sub-specialty requires an additional 2 years of fellowship training after 5 years of residency.
  • Must be registered with the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

For more information about all regulated health professions in British Columbia, visit:

BC Health Regulators