AUDIOLOGY is a branch of science that studies hearing, balance, and related disorders.
Its practitioners, who treat those with hearing loss and proactively prevent related damage, are called Audiologists, and although many people don’t know much about this profession, it has become a source of fulfilment for Nadine Silver (NS).
Confidente’s Marianne Nghidengwa (MN) spoke to her at length to gain a better understanding of her job and to find out what drives the young woman.
MN: Give us a snapshot of who you are?
NS: I am 24 years old and I live in Windhoek. I am a registered Speech Therapist and Audiologist, but I am currently only practicing as an Audiologist. I work for a wonderful company, The Ear Institute, which is situated at the Omuramba Medical Centre in Eros.
MN: Briefly tell us about your upbringing. Would you say that it played a role in making you who you are today?
NS: I was privileged to grow up in a wonderful country such as Namibia, where I was born and raised in Gobabis. Growing up in a small town made me appreciate the simple things in life and my schooling days were filled with so much fun and adventures. I loved playing netball, riding our go-kart on the farm and walking around in the Bushveld, and playing games with my older brother. My family has always been my greatest support system, and any success I have achieved in my life, I owe to them. My parents played the biggest role in shaping my character, and they instilled the value of independence, and made me realise from a young age that I was ultimately responsible for my own success. My parents were also my greatest spiritual role models, and I was blessed to grow up in a Christian home, built on the foundation of faith and love.
MN: What triggered your interest in Audiology?
NS: It was quite daunting for me to decide what I wanted to be when I was finished with school. I always knew that I wanted to study something in the medical field, but I was not exactly sure what that entailed. Finally, after much research and deliberation, I decided to apply for a degree in Speech, Language and Hearing Therapy at Stellenbosch University. It was during my studies at Stellenbosch University that I was exposed to the field of Audiology. I was immediately fascinated with all things concerning ears and hearing! After I graduated, I decided to further continue my studies at the University of Cape Town, where I applied to study for a Degree in Audiology.
MN: In layman’s terms, what is an Audiologist? Also, what is a typical day like for you?
NS: An Audiologist is a healthcare professional who specialises in the evaluation, diagnosis, treatment and management of children and adults with hearing loss and balance disorders. The services provided by an Audiologist include diagnostic hearing tests, the evaluation of balance disorders, the evaluation and management of patients with tinnitus (a ringing noise in the ear) and the fitting of hearing aids and other assistive listening devices. Audiologists are also involved in the implementation and design of hearing conservation programs (hearing protection) and newborn hearing screening programs.
A typical day usually includes consultations, hearing tests and the fitting of hearing aids. Follow-up appointments with patients are also scheduled on a regular basis, in order to monitor their progress and adaptation to hearing aids. Additional tasks include writing reports and referral letters to other healthcare professionals and the servicing of faulty hearing aids.
MN: Tell us about your studies and early years as a qualified Audiologist?
NS: My studies involved a combination of practical work at various locations, such as schools, clinics and hospitals, as well as theoretical work, which was presented in class at the university. Theoretical work entailed the medical, scientific, social and psychological aspects of speech, language and hearing. Some of the main topics focused on during my studies included the anatomy and physiology of hearing, normal communication development, early intervention, rehabilitation and the assessment and management of hearing loss and balance disorders in adults and children. I have fond memories of my years as a student, and I was very fortunate to complete my studies at such prestigious universities.
The transition from being a student to a qualified professional can take some time getting used to. I was very lucky to start working in a very supportive environment, with colleagues who were always willing to help me and give me guidance whenever I needed it. It took some time for me to become confident in my clinical skills, as one tends to make quite a few mistakes in the beginning! However, as time went by, I slowly started relying less on my colleagues and I felt more self-assured in my abilities.
MN: What is most challenging and rewarding about what you do?
NS: The most challenging aspect for me is the fact that every patient requires his or her own unique and tailor-made management plan. The phrase ‘one-size-fits-all’ does not apply in the field of Audiology! It takes a lot of patience and problem-solving skills to find the balance between keeping your patient happy and providing the most appropriate form of management or treatment. When you provide a service to people, they have very high expectations, and it can be quite challenging to meet those expectations, at times.
The most rewarding aspect for me is the long-term relationships that I am able to build with patients, as I need to see them for numerous follow-up appointments. It is a privilege to provide hope and encouragement to people, who are experiencing the debilitating effects of hearing loss, no matter what the severity. I find so much joy in sharing a patient’s experience, when they rediscover the gift of hearing, after being fitted with a hearing aid or any other assistive listening device.
MN: What advice would you offer someone considering pursuing your career path?
NS: I would recommend this career path to anyone who thrives on challenges and has a desire to assist people in improving their quality of life. Audiology is an ever-changing field and new advancements in technology are constantly taking place. This profession requires you to be flexible and not get stuck in your ways.
MN: What misconceptions do people have about what you do, which you would like to address in this platform?
NS: In today’s society there is still a stigma attached to hearing loss, and there is a misconception that hearing loss and hearing aids are only associated with old people. Hearing loss can affect any person, no matter what their age, gender or social status. Most people wait many years before they address the issue of their hearing loss, and this causes a great deal of stress, as it can lead to tension in relationships. It affects productivity at work and it can result in social discomfort, which ultimately affects a person’s overall quality of life. It is better to manage your hearing loss, despite its severity, sooner rather than later. Leaving hearing loss untreated can result in neural degeneration, which means that the nerve connecting our inner ear and our brain becomes weak, which then results in a reduced ability to process different sounds. Hearing aid technology has improved drastically over the years, and the new designs and features adapt well to the modern lifestyles of both younger and older patients.
MN: How do you balance your role as a professional and family woman?
NS: My job requires me to travel a lot to different parts of the country in Namibia, where we provide services by means of mobile clinics. On weekends I try to spend as much time as possible with my family, and it is so lovely seeing them on a regular basis now, as I lived in South Africa for six years during my studies.
MN: What do you do for a little fun and to unwind?
NS: In my free time I enjoy reading, cooking and baking, watching movies and spending time with friends and family. I also enjoy outdoor activities, such as jogging, hiking and camping.
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