Demand for audiology services

With Singapore’s population ageing, there will be a growing demand for audiology services. According to the National Health Survey of 2010, one in five Singaporeans aged 50 to 59, and one in four between the ages of 60 to 69 already suffer from hearing impairment. Hearing impairment reduces communication, work and socialisation options. It is also linked to depression, memory loss and dementia.

As such, the National University of Singapore (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine recently launched the inaugural NUS Master of Science in Audiology degree course with key donor, Siemens Medical Instruments. The post-graduate Audiology programme, administered by the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine’s Division of Graduate Medical Studies, aims to increase the pool of homegrown audiologists. Eighteen students have enrolled in the course, which began in August 2013. NUS has plans to further increase this intake to 30 students per cohort.

The new full-time, two-year Audiology course is adapted from the Master of Audiology programme offered at the University of Melbourne, one of the top Audiology programmes in the world. It will integrate academics, clinical practice and research with hands-on experience to give students a holistic and dynamic experience. With a unique Asian focus, the course also incorporates local specifics, such as pathologies, genetics, regional infections, cultures and translational research. It is well-supported by experienced local faculty and renowned teaching academics from Australia, the US and the UK. There are also six scholarships in place to help students.

Ageless Voice speaks to Associate Professor Lynne Lim, programme director of the Master of Science in Audiology programme, NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine about the course:

Can you share the issue of the lack of audiologists? Why is this need ever-so important with an ageing population?

Audiology is not a commonly pursued course of study in Singapore, and this could be largely due to limited awareness on this area of study, importance, career prospects etc. Prior to the launch of the inaugural NUS Master of Science in Audiology, those who were interested in this field had to pursue their degree overseas, which could have also been a limiting factor.

With Singapore’s population growing older, demand for audiology services is on the rise so there is a need to address this increasing need by helping to grow the pool of audiologists, giving people easier access to an audiologist.

Moreover, hearing loss is more than just a physical impairment. According to the World Health Organization, 360 million people around the world suffer from disabling hearing loss, of which 328 million are adults and 32 million children. This is nearly six percent of the world’s population.

What is the role of the audiologist?

The role of an audiologist is to diagnose hearing loss and work with patients and their families using modern technology to improve their quality of life.

Audiologists work with people of all ages, from newborn children to the elderly to help alleviate. To help to overcome the impact of hearing or balance problems, audiologists use specialised tests in a clinical setting, assess hearing and balance problems, and recommend appropriate management. They also work closely with multidisciplinary professionals to provide continuity in care for patients and their families.

Do you know how many audiologists currently are in Singapore? Are they mostly foreigners? Are most of them trained or with certification, or without?

There are currently about 60 practicing audiologists in Singapore, of whom only 12 are Singaporeans. All received their training overseas, and are distributed half in the public and half in the private sectors.

Why is having such a course here in Singapore important?

The course will train much-needed professional audiologists to meet Singapore’s hearing healthcare needs. As the course is offered in Singapore, it also provides easier access to those who are keen to pursue it, as compared to studying overseas.

Are you the only university/educational institution that has an audiology degree/course?

The course is the first of its kind in Singapore, and is a full-time two-year programme. The programme offers a comprehensive training in all aspects of academic and clinical audiology.

NUS will also be collaborating with Government research institutions, universities, industry partners and international partners to provide a rich research environment for our students.

A dedicated clinical training space for the Audiology programme has also been developed at a new Centre for Hearing, Speech and Balance (CHSB) at the National University Hospital (NUH), to ensure students are comfortable with patient care immediately on graduation.


(** PHOTO CREDIT: National University of Singapore, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine)




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