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Audiology in the United Kingdom 2008: Interview with British Academy of Audiology President

Audiology in the United Kingdom 2008: Interview with British Academy of Audiology President

July 24, 2008 Interviews

Interview with Mark Lutman, PhD, President, British Academy of Audiology (BAA), and Professor, Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, University of Southampton, United Kingdom

By Douglas L. Beck, AuD
Board Certified in Audiology
Web Content Editor
American Academy of Audiology

July 22, 2008

Academy/Beck: Good morning, Mark. Thanks for your time.

BAA/Lutman: Hi, Doug. No problem. Always happy to speak with the American Academy of Audiology.

Academy/Beck: How many audiology programs are in the United Kingdom?

BAA/Lutman: There are 10 programs that offer a BSc in audiology and three of those also offer an MSc.

Academy/Beck: How many audiologists practice in the United Kingdom?

BAA/Lutman: Good question. I'm not quite sure, but there are about 2,400 audiologists in the BAA, and we suspect the total across all audiologists in the United Kingdom is about 3,000 or so.

Academy/Beck: That's about the same with respect to proportions. In other words, we have about 300 million people and 14,000 audiologists in the United States and you have 60 million people with perhaps some 2,800 audiologists.

OK, and then tell me a little about selling and distributing hearing aids in the United Kingdom.

BAA/Lutman: Yes. Well first, the vast majority of hearing aids in the United Kingdom are dispensed through the National Health Service (NHS) and so they're not sold, they're free to all United Kingdom residents. Nonetheless, if one sells hearing aids, such as in the private sector, one needs to be a Registered Hearing Aid Dispenser (RHAD). So if you work for the NHS, you don't need the RHAD registration. If you're selling hearing aids privately, you do need to be registered.

Academy/Beck: And to get the RHAD, must you have a formal education in audiology?

BAA/Lutman: Yes. The minimum requirement for the RHAD is now at least two years of audiology-related college education, referred to as a "Foundation Degree."

Academy/Beck: And I guess the equivalent in the United States would be an associate's degree?

BAA/Lutman: Yes, correct. But the Foundation Degree is based more on practical audiology issues, with arguably less general education.

Academy/Beck: Mark, if you don't mind, can you review the educational qualifications for audiology in the United Kingdom.

BAA/Lutman: Sure. Well, first I need to tell you that we have new systems in place. Some of the audiology practitioners were in practice before the new programs were in place. So, to keep the discussion straightforward, I'll talk about how it works now, not how it worked historically.

Academy/Beck: That's fine. We have similar situations in the United States where practitioners are permitted to practice based on previous rules and regulations. That's called being "grandfathered" in. In other words, because those practitioners did meet the requirements in place when they started their career, they are allowed to continue, even though the entry requirements have changed.

BAA/Lutman: Yes, that sounds similar. In the United Kingdom, we have two basic degrees, bachelor and master of science, which are commonly referred to (respectively) as the "BSc" and the "MSc." So, if one wants to be an audiologist at this time, the most common route is the BSc. It's a four-year degree and involves three years of audiology focused science studies with a one-year clinical placement working with patients, usually in year three. So the whole four years is focused on audiology as it relates to clinical practice and general science.

Academy/Beck: And what about the MSc? What function does that serve?

BAA/Lutman: The MSc is also called the "fast track" and it can serve as an alternative route for people who already have a BSc in another field, such as physics, biology, genetics or psychology, etc. So the person who wants to transfer into audiology from another discipline might do that via a one-year audiology intensive MSc program. These people already have their scientific skills developed, so after one year of academic MSc training they do their in-service training for perhaps 18 months, and then they take a comprehensive exam to finally earn their clinical certification.

Academy/Beck: Very good. Is there anything available similar to the AuD degree?

BAA/Lutman: In the United Kingdom, we recognize the AuD as an advanced degree in audiology, indicating greater knowledge and expertise in audiology. Interestingly, some audiologists in the United Kingdom have earned AuD degrees from university programs in the States. But here in the United Kingdom, our doctorates are earned through PhD studies: either regular PhDs or professional PhDs such as a Doctorate in Clinical Practice. I'm not sure whether or not we'll adopt anything like the AuD here; we'll have to see how that develops.

Academy/Beck: What areas would you like to see explored or further developed as far as audiology across the international scene?

BAA/Lutman: One thing we need to develop would be a concise and consistent set of rules and regulations that allow audiologists from the United Kingdom or United States to work in the other country. We get lots of young people who would like to practice on either side of the Atlantic, yet it's rather difficult to get the needed permissions and paperwork in place. It would be great to streamline that if possible.

Academy/Beck: Yes, I agree. I have students that contact me to inquire about the process, too. Frankly, I usually send them to the Academy or the BAA....seems like an area ripe for development. I'll ask the staff and members of the Academy to send me a note if they have suggestions or insight on working internationally as a professional, and perhaps we can help facilitate this exchange of talent and ideas.

BAA/Lutman: That would be great, Doug. There's huge diversity across Europe too, related to hearing aids and audiology. In some countries one needs a medical degree to order or dispense hearing aids. In other countries, one just needs a storefront. Some universal standards might be useful.

Academy/Beck: Thanks, Mark. It's been a pleasure speaking with you.

BAA/Lutman: Thanks, Doug. I appreciate the opportunity.

For more information on the British Academy of Audiology: www.baaudiology.org/

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