The Job and What's Involved

Audiologists identify and assess hearing and balance disorders, and recommend and provide appropriate help.

Some do a wide range of audiology work, while many specialise in one area, such as paediatrics (working with children) or adult rehabilitation. The main areas of work are:

  • Administering, selecting, interpreting and reporting diagnostic tests - these are for patients referred to audiology departments or ear, nose and throat (ENT) professionals for hearing loss, tinnitus (a constant ringing in the ear), balance or other hearing-related disorders.
  • Making sure that reliable and valid test techniques are used.
  • Administering, interpreting and reporting auditory tests.
  • Developing new techniques and management strategies.
  • Screening newborn babies.
  • Assessing and rehabilitating hearing loss in children.
  • Fitting hearing aids and related devices, such as cochlear implants.
Adult rehabilitation
  • Fitting hearing devices and related technologies.
  • Using counselling skills in follow-up help and advice to make sure each patient gets the most benefit from hearing aids.
  • Enabling patients to manage and live with hearing loss, tinnitus or balance-related disorders by using a range of techniques, with or without the use of hearing intervention devices.
  • Supporting the management of change brought about by hearing loss - examples include giving advice on lip-reading and communication tactics, or giving information on the equipment available to help people to lead fulfilling lives.
  • Reassessing and managing people with long-term hearing loss, and hearing or balance-related disorders.
  • Liaising with social services, charities and voluntary organisations that help people with hearing impairments.

Some audiologists specialise in helping people whose balance has been affected by their hearing impairment, or who have tinnitus. Others support patients who have had hearing implants. Audiologists may also choose to work with people with physical, sensory or learning disabilities.

Audiologists keep patient records. They work as independent practitioners or as part of a team of healthcare professionals. They may also provide training and give talks on understanding hearing loss.

Audiologists usually work 37.5 hours a week, from Monday to Friday. There may be an on-call rota to cover evenings, weekends and holidays. Job share and part-time work are possible.

Most audiologists are based in hospitals. Some work in the community, visiting patients in their own homes, health centres, schools for children with special educational needs and residential care homes. Others work in universities, in teaching, research and clinical environments.

A driving licence may be useful for visiting patients.

Starting salaries for audiologists in the National Health Service (NHS) may be around £19,166 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 2,500 audiologists working throughout the UK. Most are employed in NHS hospitals. Some work in private practice, while others are employed in research by the Medical Research Council. Higher education institutions employ some audiologists for teaching and research. A small number work for charities and voluntary organisations. Although the number of audiologists has grown in recent years, there is still a shortage.

Vacancies are advertised in local and national newspapers, and in the British Academy of Audiology's (BAA's) mailing list. They are also advertised on the internet, including on the various NHS websites.

Education and Training

There are three main routes to become a qualified audiologist:

Degree in audiology - entry is usually with at least three A levels, including either a science subject, maths or psychology, plus at least five GSCE's (A-C), including English and maths. Applicants with Scottish qualifications usually need five H grades, including two from biology, chemistry, maths, physics and psychology, or three Advanced Highers, including either a science subject, maths or psychology. Equivalent qualifications may be accepted.

Masters degree in audiology - entry is with a first degree (first or upper second class) in a relevant science. It helps to have some knowledge of physics or behavioural science, and a proven interest or experience in audiology. This route includes a small number of people each year who enter as trainee clinical scientists in audiology.

Postgraduate diploma in audiology - entry is with a first degree (first or second class) in a relevant science subject.

Entry requirements may vary, so candidates should check with individual colleges or universities.

Students sponsored by the NHS have their course fees paid and may receive an NHS means-tested bursary. Undergraduate degree students are paid a trainee salary for the clinical placement in their third year.

The Courses

Degree in audiology - courses last four years full time, and are available at several universities. The third year of the course is spent on a clinical placement in an audiological setting. During this year students learn how to carry out some of the procedures a qualified audiologist performs, and how audiology services work in the NHS.

Masters degree in audiology - courses are offered at University College London, University of Manchester and University of Southampton. Most students take a one-year full-time course, which includes a substantial research project. The course is followed by an 18 to 24 months' supervised, in-service clinical placement. Some trainees then take a written, practical and oral exam to achieve the BAA Certificate of Audiological Competency (CAC). Trainee clinical scientists in audiology work towards the Masters degree on a part-time basis over four years. Students who complete both the Masters degree and the CAC can apply for registration with the Health Professions Council (HPC) to work as a clinical scientist (audiology).

Postgraduate diploma in audiology - courses are offered at University College London, University of Manchester, Queen Margaret University College Edinburgh and University of Southampton. Courses last one year full time. They are similar to the Masters degree courses, but without a research project. Students follow the course with a one-year, full-time, supervised clinical practice placement and have competence-based assessments.

There is currently a system of voluntary registration for qualified audiologists with The Registration Council for Clinical Physiologists. The profession is currently working towards registration with the HPC.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is important for audiologists. This can involve keeping up to date by reading journals and taking part in learning activities. Audiologists may work towards the BAA's Higher Certificate of Clinical Competence, which is designed to enable them to become specialist or advanced practitioners.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Audiologists should:

  • Enjoy working with people.
  • Have a clear speaking voice.
  • Have good speech patterns and the ability to be easily lip-read.
  • Be able to get on well with people of all ages and from a wide variety of backgrounds.
  • Be able to use counselling skills effectively.
  • Be sensitive to clients' individual needs.
  • Have an interest in science and anatomy.
  • Be able to work well in a team.
  • Be able to give clear instructions.
  • Be able to think logically and adopt a scientific approach.
  • Have a practical approach to problem solving.

Your Long Term Prospects

Promotion within the NHS involves taking on more responsibility, such as managing services or becoming a head of department.

Some audiologists move into private practice. It is also possible to go into research or teaching.

Get Further Information

British Academy of Audiology (BAA),
PO Box 346, Peterborough PE6 7EG
Tel: 01733 253976

Health Professions Council (HPC), Park House,
184 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4BU
Tel: 020 7582 0866

NHS Careers, PO Box 2311, Bristol BS2 2ZX
Tel: 0845 606 0655

Registration Council for Clinical Physiologists (RCCP), Suite 4,
Sovereign House, Gate Lane, Boldmere, Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham B73 5TT
Tel: 0845 226 3064

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