3rd March 2023
In the UK there are 12.5 million adults with mild hearing loss and this number is expected to increase by another two million in the next 12 years.
Helping to raise awareness across the globe of this on-going issue and promote ear and hearing care is World Hearing Day (Fri March 3rd) hosted by the World Health Organisation. This year’s theme is ‘Ear and hearing care for all! Let’s make it a reality’.
Also doing its part to promote ear care and careers in audiology is University Centre South Devon, part of South Devon College. It’s one of only three higher education institutions in the country who offer hearing aid audiology as a foundation degree and the only one in the South West that offers a foundation degree and higher level apprenticeship in Hearing Aid Audiology. The programme has recently been approved as a Higher Technical Qualification.
23 year old Lauren Edwards from Bristol had never considered a career in audiology until she started working for Specsavers five years ago.
“I was planning on being a midwife but left education to get a job and never looked back. It was working in Specsavers where there was a hearing service that got me interested.”
“I was lucky to have lots of experience of working in different departments but I wanted a change and something more clinical. It’s a great opportunity as I still work and earn as I learn,” said Lauren.
Lauren is one of 71 students on the Hearing Aid Audiology Higher Apprenticeship at University Centre South Devon. She attends the University Centre in person for her residential blocks and does the rest of her learning remotely.
The FdSc Hearing Aid Audiology is the underpinning qualification for the Hearing Aid Dispenser higher apprenticeship, and is endorsed by Specsavers. University South Devon is one of three providers nationally to deliver this programme in partnership with Specsavers.
“Not everyone wants to go to university and the apprenticeship programme allows people to go into work and study at the same time. It opens a variety of doors and also gives us the opportunity to grow our own workforce,” explained Sonam Sehemby, Professional Audiology Development Manager at Specsavers.
With an ageing population, research showing a link between hearing loss and dementia, and long NHS waiting lists there’s a need for more audiologists.
“We have a mix of people on the courses,” said Giulio Specchia Programme Lead and Coordinator (Hearing Aid Audiology). “Some are young and others have changed careers. There is good career progression with the opportunity to work in the NHS, private sector or be self-employed. It’s very flexible.”
Every student has access to a range of real-life situations in both clinical and community environments as well as access to simulation suites on campus.
Lauren may only be six weeks into her apprenticeship but she’s already learning a lot.
“I’m enjoying the in-store and clinic appointments and using my knowledge to help a patient.”
And she’s already planning her next career steps.
“In the next 18 months my goal is to be working in a store and to have my own clinic, and then have my own patients and take charge of patient management myself and my ultimate goal is to have my own Specsavers store.”