Thinking about a career in audiology?

Learn more about audiology careers and training.

Female audiologist smiling

Thinking about a career in audiology?

What is an audiologist?

Audiology is a health care field, where professionals support people who are experiencing hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance disorders.

In the UK, audiologists can be found working in the NHS, private sector, academic institutions, or in the manufacturing sector.

The assessment of hearing loss involves gaining an understanding of an individual’s unique problems through conversation, performing otoscopy, to check the health of the ears, and then further tests to determine the health of the middle ear, hearing thresholds, and speech discrimination.

Following testing, audiologists may recommend treatment plans, which often include the provision of hearing aids. These are devices that amplify sound to support the correction of hearing loss, they can also help reduce background noise to aid speech understanding.

Whilst many people think audiologists only work with people who are elderly, this isn’t the case at all. Hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance issues can affect people of all ages, and the job is incredibly varied. Many audiologists specialise in a particular field, such as paediatrics (working with children), tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears), vestibular (balance issues), or hearing therapy (counselling to support the emotional and psychological effects of hearing problems).

What is the best thing about being an audiologist?

Being an audiologist is an incredibly rewarding career. It provides an opportunity to positively impact the quality of life of your patients, every day.

Hearing loss and associated problems with ears can be very debilitating for people and, when you can help someone hear sounds they haven’t heard for a long time, the joy they experience makes it all worthwhile.

No two days are ever the same as an audiologist, and you will experience working with people of all ages, and from a variety of backgrounds, plus, you get the opportunity to use state of the art technology.

The career prospects in audiology are also excellent. You can work in clinical roles in the NHS or private sector. Some audiologists also choose to take on non-patient facing roles in education, research, management, or with hearing aid manufacturers.

Life expectancy across the globe is increasing, and many more people are using headphones to listen to music (often very loudly). As a consequence many more people are suffering from, and need help with, hearing loss. Therefore, the need for professionals to help support people who experience hearing problems is increasing.

How much does an audiologist earn in the UK?

In the NHS a newly qualified audiologist would typically be offered a Band 5 role which pays between £25,655 and £31,534. This would be dependent on experience and location. After gaining more experience, or working in roles with more specialisation, it is not uncommon for audiologists to have band 6 roles (£32,306 to £39,027) and band 7 roles (£40,057 to £45,839).1

In the private sector, pay for audiologists and hearing aid dispensers can vary greatly dependent on several factors, such as which company you join, experience, and geographical location.

In the past, it was commonplace for audiologists working in the private sector to be paid very low, basic salaries with high levels of commission. Whilst this still happens occasionally, it is now far less common, and basic salaries can range from £24,000 to £50,000.

Often private companies will incentivise audiologists with a performance-based bonus or commission on hearing aids and accessories sold, alongside other benefits such as a company car. A private audiologist will generally earn a total of around £50,000, although there is the potential to earn more.

Some NHS audiologists will also do some private work to supplement their income, this could include medico-legal testing or ear wax removal.

What other opportunities are there in audiology?

Audiologists are the professionals who are qualified to assess hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance problems. Often audiologists will be qualified to remove wax from ears too. This isn’t the only route to working in audiology though, and there are many other job roles that are vital to this sector.

Hearing aid dispensers (or hearing aid audiologists) are also trained and qualified to assess hearing problems and recommend hearing solutions, including hearing aids. These professionals often only work with adults, and are well equipped to support those with hearing loss. They will also often be trained in wax removal.

Hearing care assistants (HCA) work alongside audiologists and hearing aid dispensers, and play an important role in the provision of hearing care to patients. HCAs are not qualified to diagnose and assess hearing problems, but they may be able to conduct scan tests, as well as support people with hearing aid fitting and maintenance. HCAs are now regularly qualified to remove wax from ears too.

What kind of skills do I need to work in audiology?

A keen interest in the science of hearing, as well as the impressive technology we have available is vital if you want to work in audiology. However the most important skill an audiologist or hearing aid dispenser needs is the ability to be able to communicate effectively, and with empathy.

Hearing loss is a problem which is experienced differently by each individual, and no two patients are the same. It also doesn’t just impact on the individuals who experience hearing loss, it also impacts on their friends and family. The ability to understand each individuals own experience of hearing loss, through the right questioning and conversation is a skill in itself that should be practised.

As a hearing care professional, you will also need to embrace continued learning and professional development. Because the industry is fast moving, there are rapid advancements in technology and diagnostic testing methods. It’s really important to keep up to date and ensure you are providing patients with the best care available. Our governing body, the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), requires that all audiologists complete continuing professional development (CPD) on a regular basis and be able to demonstrate this when called upon.

What are the routes to qualification?

In the UK, there are many routes to qualifying dependent on which path you decide to take.

To qualify as an audiologist there are several degrees available, both undergraduate and postgraduate. Undergraduate degrees are offered by several universities in healthcare science (audiology). These are three year degree courses that include clinical placements. To work in the private sector, you must complete a degree that has been approved by the HCPC.

If you are a graduate, you may be able to enrol in an NHS Scientist Training Program which involves accredited workplace training and the completion of a master’s degree.

To become a hearing aid dispenser, many employers offer their own qualifications and these can be gained at the same time as working. There are also several universities/institutions offering a foundation degree in hearing aid audiology, which vary in length from 15 months to 2 years.

For hearing care assistants, the route is similar to a hearing aid dispenser, in that employers tend to fund these qualifications themselves. There are many different courses that are run by different institutions, and you will be paid by your employer whilst you complete the course.

References

Article by Adam Bostock

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