Vestibular Assessment and Rehabilitation: Ten-year Survey Trends of Audiologists' Opinions and Practice

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Background: The past decade has yielded changes in the education and training of audiologists and technological advancements that have become widely available for clinical balance function testing. It is unclear if recent advancements in vestibular instrumentation or the transition to an AuD degree have affected audiologists’ vestibular clinical practice or opinions.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine predominant opinions and practices for vestibular assessment (VA) and vestibular rehabilitation (VR) over the past decade and between master’s- and AuD-level audiologists.

Method: A 31-question survey was administered to audiologists via U.S. mail in 2003 (N = 7,500) and electronically in 2014 (N = 9,984) with a response rate of 12% and 10%, respectively.

Results: There was an increase in the number of audiologists providing vestibular services in the past decade. Most respondents agreed that audiologists were the most qualified professionals to conduct VA. Less than half of the surveyed audiologists felt that graduate training was adequate for VA. AuD-level audiologists were more satisfied with graduate training and felt more comfortable performing VA compared to master’s-level audiologists. Few respondents agreed that audiologists were the most qualified professionals to conduct VR or that graduate training prepared them to conduct VR. The basic vestibular test battery was unchanged across surveys and included: calorics, smooth pursuit, saccades, search for spontaneous, positional, gaze and optokinetic nystagmus, Dix‐Hallpike, case history, and hearing evaluation. There was a trend toward greater use of air (versus water) calorics, videonystagmography (versus electronystagmography), and additional tests of vestibular and balance function.

Conclusions: VA is a growing specialty area in the field of audiology. Better training opportunities are needed to increase audiologists’ knowledge and skills for providing vestibular services. The basic tests performed during VA have remained relatively unchanged over the past 10 yr.