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Audiology

Audiology is a rapidly developing field, and the need for audiological services is clear. A national study of hearing showed that approximately 16% of the population have a significant hearing loss, indicating that working in this field is an important area of the NHS.

Healthcare science staff specialising in audiology, work with patients of all ages as part of a multidisciplinary team of professionals. They identify and assess hearing and balance function and their associated disorders, recommending and providing appropriate therapeutic rehabilitation and management.

The main areas of work are:

  • paediatrics
  • adult assessment and rehabilitation
  • special needs groups
  • research and development
  • teaching.

Working in audiology is both challenging and an expanding field of clinical science and technology. Healthcare science staff in this area need to be able to communicate with people of all ages, be able to think logically and adopt an analytical scientific approach combined with a caring and patient focused attitude to their work.

Many healthcare science staff in audiology develop a special interest and expertise in one area, such as paediatrics, adult auditory rehabilitation, tinnitus, auditory rehabilitation, cochlear implants, bone anchored hearing devices or balance assessment and rehabilitation.

Newborn hearing screeners work in neonatal units, postnatal wards, and in hospitals and clinics. They are involved in identifying which newborn babies need to undergo a hearing assessment and after gaining consent from the parent or guardian, undertake this using  screening equipment. They will be responsible for making sure that the equipment they are using is working correctly. They are expected to record all the results accurately using various computer systems and forward these to appropriate healthcare staff requiring them. Newborn hearing screeners work as a part of a team with staff including healthcare scientists, neonatal nurses, GPs and health visitors.

At a more senior level, healthcare science practitioners use techniques ways to measure and compensate for hearing loss including offering the initial therapeutic support and advice and diagnose audio-vestibular neurological diseases. They work directly with patients, often children or elderly people. They may prescribe appropriate hearing aid equipment or arrange onward referral for further investigation and play both a clinical role and a managerial development role.

Healthcare scientists staff working in audiology have a substantial amount of theoretical knowledge and practical skills about hearing, acoustics and balance, and are able to develop  diagnostic protocols, critically interpret and report the results of these procedures and recommend an individual patient care management strategy. This enables them to solve clinical hearing and balance problems, and when necessary to develop logical alternatives.

They are also involved in counselling and rehabilitating hearing impaired patients.

More experienced scientists generally carry out the non-routine aspects of an audiological service, involving complex hearing and balance computer based investigations especially where a high degree of competence and responsibility is necessary. This will require background knowledge of the scientific and technological foundation on which hearing science is based and often involves them acting as co-ordinator, manager and initiator of service development.

Most healthcare science staff in audiology work in a hospital, assessing and treating patients, and may reach consultant level. Many operate open referral clinics and may be the only point of contact for the patient. Some audiologists work in a university, where their job is primarily concerned with teaching and research. There are opportunities to work within the independent sector.

Healthcare science staff often work at the forefront of research and innovation, so that patients are continually receiving the very best healthcare.

Skills required

To work in audiology you will need effective communication with an excellent problem-solving ability and team working skills. You will also need to be confident with technology and systems/processes.

More information on the skills required to work in healthcare science.

Entry points and requirements

There are three entry points into this area of work.

  • As a newborn hearing screener. You will usually need the equivalent of 3 GCSEs at grade C or above. It can be advantageous to have a nursery nursing or child-care related qualification, such as an NNEB, BTEC or NVQ. However, each employer will indicate their requirements in the person specification of the job vacancy when advertised. Applicants should additionally have confident baby handling skills, good interpersonal and communication skills, basic computer skills, an ability to manage their own workload, be able to work as part of a team and be self motivated.
  • As a healthcare science practitioner.  Entry is through the NHS Practitioner Training Programme (PTP) by taking an accredited BSc degree in Healthcare Science (Audiology). You will typically need at least 2 if not three A2/A' levels including science subjects and a good spread of GCSEs at A-C grade. Alternative/equivalent qualifications may be accepted by some universities, but you are advised to check with each university (or visit their website) before making an application.
  • As a healthcare scientist.  After a relevant degree, entry is through applying for a place on the graduate-entry NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP), specialising in neurosensory sciences. The minimum entry requirement is a relevant BSc degree at a minimum of a 2:1 classification or a 2:2 with appropriate postgraduate qualifications.

Training and education programmes

Your training and education will depend on the level at which you are working.

  • Once in post, newborn hearing screeners work towards relevant healthcare science QCF/NVQs qualifications while they are working. These are underpinned by an awards and qualifications framework.
  • To enter via the NHS Practitioner Training Programme (PTP) you will need to take a full-time (usually 3-year) accredited integrated BSc degree in Healthcare Science at university. At least 50 weeks of work-place based training in the NHS is included in these programmes. For the most up to date list of accredited BSc Healthcare Science degrees, please use our coursefinder or visit the NHS Networks website. Applications for full-time courses are made through UCAS.
  • Graduates entering the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) will be employed in a fixed-term, salaried training post and will study towards a masters degree qualification in Clinical Science (Neurosensory sciences). There is an annual application cycle for the STP. Click here for details about the STP.

Programmes are often supported by the development of workplace-based assessment tools, assessment of equivalent learning and the development of academic careers.

No matter what level you are working at, as part of your development you will be expected to do continuing professional development (CPD) to show that you are keeping yourself up to date with the policies and procedures in your area of work.

It can be advantageous to have gained some experience of working in a relevant environment before applying for a place on a course or job vacancy. In broad terms, experience of working directly with the public can be advantageous to most roles related to audiology.

Registration

Many healthcare science roles require registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). For those parts of the workforce not regulated by the HCPC, professional voluntary registers are in operation.

For registration as a Clinical Scientist individuals must hold an Academy for Healthcare Science (AHCS) Certificate of Attainment granted upon completion of the MSC Scientist Training Programme or AHCS Certificate of Equivalence.  

You can find out more about the Academy's Certificates on its website:  www.ahcs.ac.uk

Please check individual job vacancy details for information when applying.

Pay

For information about pay for staff working in healthcare science, please click here.

Further information

For further information about a career in audiology please contact:

The British Academy of Audiology
Chester House
68 Chestergate
Macclesfield
Cheshire
SK11 6DY.

Tel: 01625 664545
E-mail:admin@baaudiology.org
Website:www.baaudiology.org