People who are unfamiliar with audiology may think that audiologists deal with sound equipment, or that we only conduct hearing tests. We definitely do more than this! As audiologists, we educate, intervene and rehabilitate patients with various hearing and balancing issues. In addition, we try to take this knowledge to the general public.
When I was studying in university, my sister who worked at the Singapore Association for the Deaf asked me to volunteer for a sign language event. I began volunteering regularly as I made more friends from the hard-of-hearing community.
My passion for volunteering highly influenced my decision to search for a career in the field of hearing. I landed a job as a Hearing Education Counsellor at Singapore General Hospital's Otolaryngology (a medical specialty that diagnoses and treats head, neck, ear, nose and throat disorders) department. There, I met audiologists and saw how they worked with other medical professionals to improve the lives of others, in particular, young children who had little or no understanding of speech and social cues before being fitted with hearing devices.
What cemented my desire to pursue a career as an audiologist was a subsequent stint in a hearing aid manufacturing company. Exposed to a wider range of hearing services that audiologists provide, it was then I realised the true impact audiologists had on people with different hearing issues. Hence, when the National University of Singapore began its Masters programme in audiology in 2013, it was an opportunity not to be missed.
As an audiologist, I work in Tan Tock Seng Hospital's Otorhinolaryngology department from Mondays to Fridays. My day begins with reviewing case notes for the day. This is followed by personalised consultations with a variety of patients. These include first-time patients who want to try out the different hearing devices, patients who require fine-tuning for their devices, and patients who require counselling for tinnitus (ringing-in-the-ear), and more.
My sessions help them better manage their hearing conditions, troubleshoot their devices, and pick up suitable communication strategies. If hearing aids do not seem to work for them, I conduct diagnostic tests to assess the feasibility of surgical intervention for hearing implants.
One of my most memorable cases was an elderly man, who came in with his daughter for a hearing aid evaluation. They were prepared to purchase a subsidised pair of hearing aids using the Seniors' Mobility and Enabling Fund. Unfortunately, he was misinformed – he mistakenly thought he already had the grant and did not have to apply for it. His daughter and I spent a lot of time on the phone with various ministry personnel to resolve the issue.
When he finally received his hearing aids, we were met with another obstacle: There was a rare out-of-box failure! We had to get him a replacement set from the manufacturer. Even though we had to go through so much to get him fitted, it was worth it. He was so thankful and joyful after being fitted with his hearing aids; reacting to the sounds of his surroundings with childlike curiosity. I recall him telling me: "Thank you for gifting me back with the sounds of life."
It brightens my day when patients are able have better quality of life. I owe it to my sister for leading me to the path as an audiologist. Had she not offered me that volunteering opportunity more than a decade ago, I might have not found my calling.
My name is Jocelynn Khoo, an audiologist from Tan Tock Seng Hospital. Join me on this enriching journey and make a difference in the lives of others.