There is a worldwide shortage of audiologists. The ageing population is increasing demand for audiology but the increase in work has also come from the screening of newborns, digital technology improving the sound quality of hearing aids, and cochlear implants being fitted in larger numbers.

Audiologists provide services for people who have a hearing impairment so the job straddles the domains of science and humanities. Hearing is evaluated by recording a person's response to different types of sound, such as tones and speech-like sounds. But hearing can also be tested without the patient having to respond where special equipment measures the way the ear and brain respond to sound. This measurement is used for young children and for people who are not able to give a reliable behavioural response.

Some people have trouble interpreting speech and other sounds even though they have normal hearing sensitivity. This is described as an auditory processing disorder where people have difficulty hearing in situations with a lot of background noise. This problem requires substantial behavioural and physiological testing as well as therapies.

Another area audiologists work in is tinnitus (noises in the ears). This involves the measurement of the pitch and loudness of tinnitus and then counselling combined with hearing aid fitting and/or therapeutic sound generators.

Then there is the newborn hearing screening in public hospitals where infants with hearing problems are identified and habilitated.

The role also includes fitting hearing devices, and working patients who have cochlear implants.

The University of Auckland master's degree is a two-year programme of academic and clinical instruction in the areas of physics, neuroscience and audiology.

The first year focuses on the fundamental sciences of audiology and audiology techniques. There are courses dealing with anatomy and physiology of the auditory system, acoustics, audiology testing and rehabilitation techniques, ear disease, and basic clinical practice. This concludes with a nine-week practicum over the summer months, in hospital audiology clinics, usually outside Auckland.

In the second year of the course emphasis is on independent learning, advanced practice and management. The degree also provides the pre-requisites for PhD study.


Self employed:
Jeanie Morrison-Low, 53
Audiologist

To become an audiologist, I needed to do a two-year Master's in Audiology, followed by some professional exams. Because my undergraduate degree had been in art history and anthropology, I had to do a number of university papers in physics, biological psychology, biology and child psychology.

This was a fascinating, intense, and well-taught course. It involved course-work and hands-on clinical work, some of which was done at various hospitals and audiology clinics throughout Auckland.

After this, I did a year's internship at a private, independent audiology clinic and at Palmerston North Hospital, before sitting a two-day exam to become a member of the NZ Audiological Society. You have to be a member of the society to access government funding for clients. I worked mainly at the private clinic and part-time at Palmerston North Hospital for two and a half years.

Hospital work is mainly working with children with hearing loss or with suspected hearing loss. Even newborn babies can be tested.

Private clinic work is mainly diagnostic testing, counselling and fitting hearing aids to adults. You have the chance to interact with all kinds of people and improve their quality of life, as well as play with lots of expensive equipment.

A year ago, I opened my own private independent clinic five minutes' walk from home on the Kapiti Coast. I do clinical work for three and a half days a week and admin, accounts and marketing for the rest of the week.

I am happy with my work-life balance, and grateful to NZ immigration for guiding me towards the most interesting and satisfying job I've done.

Master of Audiology
University of Auckland and the University of Canterbury.
Prerequisites: A bachelor's degree, preferably with physiology or psychology to stage 3 and physics to at least stage 1.

Contact: (09) 373 7536, email me@anydomainname.com, website
Course dates: Two years full time, March to February with a clinical practicum in the break between year 1 and 2.

Cost of courses: 2010 domestic fees $6822.
Numbers on course: 12 per year.

Starting salary range: $50,000-$65,000.

Employment outcomes: After completing an MAud degree a Certificate of Clinical Competence is required for entry into the NZ Audiological Society. Opportunities include working in audiology clinics, in research positions, with hearing aid companies or establishing their own business.