A new Master of Clinical Audiology course is rolling out at Charles Darwin University (CDU) this year to train much-needed audiologists focused on improving Australian First Nations hearing health.
The two-year postgraduate degree at CDU will equip the learner with the essential knowledge and skills to become a qualified audiologist in Australia.
The Northern Territory has the highest percentage of hearing loss and ear health issues in Australia.
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show in 2018-19, 60 per cent of First Nations people over the age of seven in the Northern Territory had a measured long-term ear problem or hearing loss.
Almost half of childhood hearing loss is preventable with appropriate audiology services, as is more than a third of adult hearing loss.
The high demand for audiology services and a shortage of qualified audiologists in the Territory have resulted in an extenuating waiting list for patients.
A recent report released by the Northern Territory Remote Aboriginal Investment (NTRAI) in September 2021 shows as of December 2020, there were 3,109 First Nations children and young people on the waiting list to see an audiologist in the NT.
CDU’s new audiology course aims to address the shortage of audiologists in the Northern Territory by training more qualified professionals for the local workforce.
The course also features 250 hours of clinical placements at locations across the Northern Territory and Australia.
Dean of CDU’s College of Health and Human Sciences, Professor Dominic Upton, said the new Master of Clinical Audiology could help meet the demand for audiologists in the Territory.
“There is a high employability demand for audiologists in the Northern Territory which has the largest percentage of First Nations population requiring audiology services,” Professor Upton said.
“The new Master of Audiology has a unique focus on public health and First Nations ear health. Upon graduating from the two-year degree, students can become qualified audiologists to help improve hearing health outcomes in the Territory.”
CDU Senior Lecturer and Course Coordinator of Audiology, Dr Andrea Simpson, said there was unique strength from studying audiology in the Northern Territory.
“Ear health amongst First Nations communities is a serious issue. If not managed, it can lead to poor educational, speech and language outcomes,” Dr Simpson said.
“Audiology is a niche professional with around 3,000 audiologists nationally. Recruiting to the NT has been an ongoing challenge and audiologists have always been in short supply.
“Also, there are only a handful of First Nations audiologists, so this is another reason it’s important to base up in NT.”