Rehabilitation Officer (Hearing Impairment)

The Job and What's Involved

Rehabilitation officers (hearing impairment) (ROHIs) provide community care and support, helping service users overcome problems that can be caused by hearing difficulties, ranging from complete or partial deafness, to gradual hearing loss or conditions like tinnitus. They are sometimes known as equipment officers or technical officers.

ROHIs individually assess how hearing impairments affect people at home, at work and in their social lives. This could mean helping service users who have recently lost their hearing adapt to their new situation or assisting them to gain further support or funding.

Often working in a local authority social care or sensory team and responding to referrals, their duties may include:

  • Advising people, giving information and supplying a wide range of specialist equipment.
  • Providing confidential advice in any area where a hearing impairment may be causing personal difficulties, giving practical advice, talking through the psychological effects of hearing loss and helping people to adapt and adjust their routines.
  • Organisations offering advice.
  • Advising people about getting the best use from their hearing aids.
  • Sourcing details about local classes in sign language or lip reading.
  • Delivering sensory awareness training to other health and social care professionals.

Advising on communication equipment that can make daily activities easier is a large part of an ROHI's role. This could include:

  • Amplifiers for telephones.
  • Special doorbells or entry systems.
  • Personal communication devices, like textphones or television loop systems.
  • Specially adapted smoke, gas, baby and burglar alarms, personal call systems and alarm clocks.

Consequently, it is vital that ROHIs stay informed about new equipment, how the technology is advancing and personal health and safety issues. Normally, ROHIs advise people on where to purchase and how to install equipment. In some cases they might supply or adapt and fit equipment. They also train people how to use and maintain the equipment properly, often by demonstration.

ROHIs keep written records, produce reports, and attend meetings and case conferences. Some service users have both physical and sensory impairments. As a result, cases can be quite complex and might involve liaising with other healthcare and social care professionals, such as hospital audiology departments, occupational therapists, employers and Jobcentres, as well as voluntary organisations.

ROHIs usually work office hours, Monday to Friday. Part-time work or job sharing may be available.

Although office based, they may spend a lot of time visiting people in their own homes. ROHIs can also work in specialist resource centres, or give advice to people that telephone or call into an office. A driving licence and car are usually required.

Starting salaries may range from around £19,000 to £22,300 a year. With experience, this could rise to around £27,000 a year.

Team leaders can earn £35,000 or more a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

ROHIs are employed by local authority sensory teams and social services and the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID), where they are called technical officers, and other charitable and voluntary organisations for hearing impaired people. There are opportunities throughout the UK.

Vacancies are advertised in local newspapers, on the websites and job bulletins of local authorities and voluntary organisations, on www.lgjobs.com and on the RNID website, www.rnid.org.uk.

Education and Training

There are no set entry requirements for a career as an ROHI. However, many positions specify GCSE's (A*-C), or equivalent, in English and mathematics. Many employers look for candidates who have experience of working with hearing impaired people, either at work or in a voluntary role.

Previous experience as an occupational therapy support worker or in another health or social care occupation can be an advantage.

Additional qualifications that employers may look for include:

1. A British Sign Language (BSL) Stage 1 qualification or a willingness to learn sign language.

2. Diploma in rehabilitation studies (DipHE) (for candidates that work within a sensory team supporting both visually and hearing impaired clients). This two-year programme is available at Birmingham City University (BCU) and is a combination of e-learning, regular blocks of attendance at BCU and an 80-day compulsory placement in the second year.

Some employers offer Apprenticeships in health and social care, including Advanced Apprenticeships (leading to an NVQ Level 3).

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

The Diploma in society, health and development may be relevant for this area of work. Foundation degrees are also available in health and social care. They are generally two-year full-time courses, providing professional development in a broad range of areas relating to social care. As a guide, minimum requirements for entry onto a foundation degree are normally one A level and three to four GCSE's (A*-C), or equivalent.

Working towards an NVQ in health and social care may also be helpful in finding a job in this area of work. The national occupational standards for health and social care include sensory services. Achieving these units provides the basis for a range of qualifications.

Because ROHIs work with vulnerable individuals, applicants must undergo checks through the Criminal Records Bureau.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training for ROHIs depends on individual employers, but may combine on-the-job training with internal and external courses. Local authorities offer induction training and continuing professional development (CPD) to address individual training needs.

The Technical Officers Association offers the Level 3 Edexcel Advanced Diploma in technical and rehabilitation work with deaf people through the CityLit College in London. This course is aimed at anyone who is already employed as, or wishes to become, a rehabilitation/technical officer in the field of environmental equipment for deaf and hearing impaired clients.

Other relevant external courses include:

  • City & Guilds Level 2 Certificate in supporting users of assistive technology. Candidates must take five mandatory units and two optional units to complete the qualification. Each unit is assessed by an assignment. The whole qualification takes around 210 hours to complete.
  • Signature offers qualifications in British Sign Language from Levels 1 to 4, including NVQs, as well as the Level 1 Award in deaf awareness and communication and Level 2 and 3 Certificates in deafblind communication.
  • City Lit College in London offers numerous courses on working with deaf people, including a BA Deaf Studies: technical skills for communication support workers. This course runs part time over 11 weeks.

As many hearing impaired clients, particularly elderly people, suffer from other disabilities, ROHIs may take additional training, enabling them to make assessments for other items of equipment that will assist clients' mobility.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An ROHI should have:

  • Excellent written and verbal communication and reasoning skills.
  • Good assessment skills, to identify and provide solutions to specific user challenges.
  • Awareness of the deaf culture and the challenges people with hearing impairments face.
  • Problem-solving ability.
  • Patience to teach, impart new skills and motivate people from all age groups, cultures and abilities.
  • The ability to work independently and take accountability for case loads.
  • Good team working skills.
  • Integrity in decision making.
  • Respect for confidentiality and anti-discrimination policies.
  • Ability to compile statistical data and written reports.

Your Long Term Prospects

There is no formal career progression pathway for ROHIs. However, experienced ROHIs, with additional training, may be promoted to team leader or sensory support management roles.

A range of Level 7 and 8 postgraduate qualifications in assistive technology and rehabilitation studies are also offered at a number of UK institutions. See the training and courses section on the Foundation for Assistive Technology (FAST) website for a full listing.

Get Further Information

Children's Workforce Development Council,
2nd Floor, City Exchange, 11 Albion Street,
Leeds LS1 5ES
Tel: 0113 244 6311
Website: www.cwdcouncil.org.uk

City Lit, Keeley Street,
Covent Garden,
London WC2B 4BA
Tel: 020 7492 2600
Website: www.citylit.ac.uk

Foundation for Assistive Technology (FAST),
31 Scarborough Street, London E1 8DR
Tel: 0207 264 8955
Website: www.fastuk.org

RNID, 19-23 Featherstone Street,
London EC1Y 8SL
Tel: 020 7296 8000 Textphone 020 7296 8001
Website: www.rnid.org.uk

Signature, Mersey House,
Mandale Business Park, Belmont,
Durham DH1 1TH
Tel: 0191 383 1155
Website: www.signature.org.uk

Skills for Care, Albion Court,
5 Albion Place, Leeds LS1 6JL
Tel: 0113 245 1716
Website: www.skillsforcare.org.uk

Skills for Care and Development
Website: www.caringcareers.org.uk

Technical Officers Association,
9 Erica Road, St Ives,
Cambridgeshire PE27 3AE
Tel: 01480 300726
Website: www.toa.org.uk

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