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Audiology Across the UK: Interview with Pauline Beesley, MSc

Audiology Across the UK: Interview with Pauline Beesley, MSc

August 25, 2009 Interviews

Douglas L. Beck, AuD, speaks with Beesley as she gives us the 2009 update on the British Academy of Audiology.

Academy: Good day, Pauline. Thanks for your time this morning.

Beesley: Hi, Doug. I am happy to chat with you.

Academy: Pauline, I know you are a board member of the British Academy of Audiology (BAA) and as such, during the early summer (2009), you have been speaking to audiologists across the United Kingdom to get them up to speed on the BAA’s successes and challenges. Can you share some of that information with us, too?

Beesley: Yes, of course. In fact, as we are chatting at this moment, I am about to give an update to the BAA Northwest Regional group—and so I can detail some of that information for you.

Academy: Great, that would be perfect, please proceed.

Beesley: Okay, well let’s start with who’s who….As you probably know, the new president of the BAA is Huw Cooper, the vice president is Phil Holt and the past president is Mark Lutman. Amanda Barton serves as secretary; Alexia Euthymiades is treasurer; Amanda Casey handles accreditation, education, and training; and Will Brassington is managing professional development. I will just refer to the BAA Web site to list the other directors.

Academy: And, I believe, I have heard the BAA membership continues to grow?

Beesley: Yes, membership is very strong. We have 2,318 members in total. Four hundred eighty-five (485) of them are students, 33 are international members, we have 16 honorary members and so on, but we do have 1,552 full members.

Academy: That’s impressive.

Beesley: Yes, and in many respects, the success has been directly based on the successful amalgamation of three prior professional organizations—the British Society of Audiologists, the British Association of Audiological Scientists, and the British Society of Hearing Therapists—all of which combined and became the British Academy of Audiology (BAA) in 2004. Therefore, the BAA has been highly successful in creating one professional body and because of having such a large group and a well-represented membership, we have been able to get involved in some of the “bigger picture” items. For example, the BAA has been more involved politically, because we have impressive membership numbers.

Academy: Can you give me an example?

Beesley: Well very recently, we’ve been challenged by the government to reduce the “wait times.” In fact, the BAA just a month or two ago sent out a press release congratulating the National Health Service (NHS) audiology departments for significantly reducing the waiting time between medical referral and audiology diagnostic testing, as well as the wait time between diagnosis and fitting. So the bottom line is the wait times have been reduced dramatically and the NHS audiology departments have done a terrific job meeting their targets, but of course, we’d all like to do better if that’s possible. I know in the United States, it seems like our new 18-week targets are still lengthy, but only a few years ago, the wait time was up to two years!

Academy: Excellent. That’s a great accomplishment and a nice feather in the cap for the NHS as well as the BAA. Regarding the actual hearing aid dispensing protocol, when you have an NHS patient with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, does the NHS provide one or two hearing aids?

Beesley: Well, presuming the patient is an audiological candidate for two, we recommend two and the NHS provides two. On rare occasion, a patient may elect to take just one, and that’s his or her decision, and again, quite rare. The vast majority wind up acquiring two.

Academy: And what about digital versus analog? Is analog even an option through the NHS?

Beesley: Not really. We have products from all the major manufacturers; we have the latest technology and virtually all of the products are digitals. There are no advantages to analog and even the price differential is long gone, so analog hearing aids are not really part of the NHS any longer.

Academy: I read recently that the UK’s newborn hearing screening program is going very well, too?

Beesley: I think the numbers run about the same in the United States and the United Kingdom…something like 97 percent of all newborns are screened for hearing loss. However, interestingly, here in the United Kingdom, the newborns are screened within six hours of birth, as the moms and babies generally go home within 24 hours of birth. However, there are different models across the different settings.

Academy: And are the newborn screenings based on OAE? In addition, if the child fails the OAE, the audiologist uses an ABR screening, and if the child fails the ABR screening then the audiologist uses tone burst and click ABR?

Beesley: Right, that’s the most common protocol. I should mention that for newborns, the whole hearing aid fitting process is much faster. Diagnostic tests are finished within a month or so and if earmolds are needed, they’re cast at that same time and so the hearing aids can, and usually are, dispensed just a week or two later.

Academy: Very good. Moreover, with regard to hearing aids, I believe the NHS mandates real-ear measures—is that correct?

Beesley: Yes, absolutely. The audiologist has the obligation to verify his or her hearing aid prescriptions and fittings.

Academy: Pauline, are there any BAA announcements you’d like to pass along?

Beesley: Well, we have many interesting things going on! The Hearing Aid Council is about to be eliminated, and then all private hearing aid dispensers will register through the same council as Clinical Scientists (Audiology).

Then we have Professor Sue Hill, she is the chief scientific officer. She is evaluating how to develop a more modern medical work force, and the early recommendations are a bit controversial. You see they have suggested a combined training in the BSc program whereby the audiologists and visual scientists study the others’ profession…and so then the theory goes that you would create one person with two areas of expertise. In this case, one person with hearing and vision expertise.

Academy: I cannot imagine how that would work. It seems it would likely devalue both professions and reduce their education in their own areas, and lessen their important contributions to diagnostics, patient care and rehab.

Further, it seems it would take the professionals down to technician status, ultimately lowering the standard of care while providing less skills and talents to the patients. Imagine a radiologist and an urologist getting the same training and then having to manage radiology and urology patients? Besides, the BAA has worked so hard to increase knowledge, training, education, and competence of their members, less training and multi-tasking seems counter-productive to me!

Beesley: Well, at this moment, I have to agree with you. Audiology professionals are highly sought and they have become even more in demand as we have raised the bar with respect to training, education, and clinical skills…so we are all concerned about this issue. Many of us are hoping we can have mutually respectful input into the matter, so the patients get the best and most efficient care.

Academy: Okay, well, please keep me posted. This is a fascinating and pivotal issue not just for the BAA, the NHS, and the audiologists, but also for the patients they take care of! Pauline, you have been very generous with your time and I know you have to teach a course in a few moments. So thanks very much!

Beesley: My pleasure, thank you, too, Doug!

Pauline Beesley MSc, is a consultant clinical scientist (audiology), a board director of the British Academy of Audiology, and audiology services manager for the Bradford Royal Infirmary in Bradford, England.

Douglas L. Beck, AuD, Board Certified in Audiology, is the Web content editor for the American Academy of Audiology.

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