Career Advice

How to become an Audiologist

Starting a Career in Hearing Aid Dispensing

HCPC Approved Foundation Degree

Before an audiologist can practise in the private sector and dispense hearing aids they must have passed either a Foundation Degree in Audiology at a university approved by Health and Care Professions Council or passed the examinations of the now defunct Hearing Aid Council, and completed 850 hours of post examination training. They must then register with the Health and Care Professions Council.  The Society has produced a guidance document Routes to HCPC Registration as an HAD which you can download here

DOWNLOAD A LIST OF HCPC-APPROVED HIGHER EDUCATION COURSES

 
If you want information on careers in the NHS please refer to the British Society of Audiology.

BSHAA welcomes membership applications from students studying to become an audiologist.  You must be attending one of the recognised courses but there is no membership fee to pay until you have qualified and you benefit from access to the website, newsletters and six issues of the Society’s professional journal, BSHAA People, which is published six times a year.  There are also special student prices for attendance at any of our development days and the annual Congress.  You will not be able to vote. Check out our events page

Work in the NHS or abroad?

The HCPC has an aptitude test which will allow those with relevant qualifications and work experience to join the HCPC register as hearing aid dispensers. The test is primarily aimed at those currently dispensing in the NHS or abroad and who wish to work in the private sector.  Information is published on the HCPC website explaining how to apply for the test and what it involves. The test is being organised by De Montefort University and Anglia Ruskin University. They expect to run the test quarterly, depending on demand, and it will be recognised by the HCPC.

Become a Student

If you are wondering why you should become a student studying for a qualification in the independent hearing profession, then consider how you’ll feel when you literally change someone’s life by enabling them to hear in situations that they are starting to avoid, and they tell you how fabulous that is for them.

Registered Hearing Aid Dispensers and Hearing Care Assistants work within the private or independent hearing healthcare sector, often in a retail sales environment. While many are based in clinics or shops many visit the hard of hearing in their own homes or care centres to improve the hearing of people, predominantly elderly adults, who suffer either from age related hearing loss or hearing deterioration caused through loud noise or illness.

Changes in the NHS and a growing elderly population gives rise to an increasingly growing market with insufficient professionals to meet the growing independent sector demand.

BSHAA supports the academic and work based education paths leading to eligibility to apply for professional registration with the Health and Care Professions Council and maintains a database of all BSHAA recognised Hearing Care Assistants whose professional training and development has been endorsed by the Society.

Read what student Robin Gordon wrote for the Society’s journal, BSHAA People.

 

Become an HCA

BSHAA developed the role of Hearing Care Assistant (HCA) to the benefit of Hearing Care Professionals and the general public.  This is an opportunity for new entrants to the sector to work alongside Hearing Aid Dispensers and support them in their daily tasks. The HCA function may also be of interest to those already working within the sector and seeking further qualification.

Download BSHAA’s HCA practice manual

Please note that the guidance in this manual reflects best practice at the time of publication, building on the Code of Conduct and Training Standards for Healthcare Support Workers and Adult Social Care Workers in England.

FEBRUARY 2020: BSHAA is currently reviewing its guidance on the delegation of functions to HCAs.

Apprenticeship

At a time when many independent hearing practices are considering growing their business and adding to their workforce, the evolution of National Apprenticeships in England provides a cost-effective solution to increasing the capacity for HCPC-registered Hearing Aid Dispensers. Having just led the apprenticeship trailblazer through to successful publication of the Level 5 Hearing Aid Dispenser standard by the Institute for Apprenticeships,

DAVID RIST helps answer the question: 'Why take on an apprentice?

This is an outdated view of apprenticeships. While there are additional financial benefits for employing a younger person, the apprenticeship reforms make the HAD apprenticeship suitable for any trainee who wants to develop a career in audiology.

There seemed to be two main disadvantages that smaller independents and owner managed, or family run, businesses told the trailblazer about; the first concerned the education fees necessary for a new trainee to complete an education programme that would provide eligibility to apply for HCPC registration, and the second was around the ‘readiness’ of a student as they complete their education programme.

 

Currently, an education provider will have put together a curriculum that does two things; first of all to meet the criteria set out by the Higher Education Institute or provider i.e. the syllabus breadth, depth and duration required to meet the programme level; whether a diploma or Foundation Degree at level-5 or a BSc at level-6 and secondly to ensure that the syllabus provides sufficient learning and skill development to meet the HCPC minimum standards of proficiency. This does not necessarily mean a ready now hearing aid dispenser upon registration. This may be less of a disadvantage in a large national business but significantly more impactful in a smaller business where the context of the HAD role can be a little different. Broader health and safety, business finance and profitability, marketing and advertising, ear care including wax removal, are some of the activities that a HAD may also be required to undertake. This is why the Trailblazer included representatives from smaller independent hearing businesses to design an Apprenticeship Standard that met their requirements.

 

Not necessarily. Any major change to an existing HCPC approved programme would have to be revalidated by the HCPC to evidence that it continues to meet their required standards to provide eligibility to apply for registration. However, an existing provider may prefer to leave their existing programme unchanged and provide additional courses or workshops that would enable the apprentice to cover the full training requirement of their apprenticeship. One of the fundamental benefits of Apprenticeship’s today is that they are employer led. This means that an employer can choose which provider to use for different parts of the overall apprenticeship. The only restriction is that each institute, or provider, must appear on the national register of approved training providers.

 

Registering an apprentice on the Level-5 Hearing Aid Dispenser Apprenticeship programme provides a government educational grant for the employer that is capped at £12,000 per apprentice. If an employer is of a size that means they already pay the apprenticeship levy, the grant is then funded from the employers levy account. If the employer had an annual wage bill of less than £3m and therefore does not pay the levy, then the employer is required to fund only 10% of the overall cost with the balance of the fees paid by central government.

On average, there is an expectation of around 15 months. It will be different depending on whether an apprentice completes all parts of their education in a linear plan or whether some parts are completed in parallel. However, the standard requires a programme of not less than 12 months with a minimum of 20% of the time spent ‘off the job training’, and a maximum of 24 months. Duration is something that an employer can manage in their choice of approved training providers.

Having chosen the Level-5 HAD apprenticeship standard, the next step is to choose the education or training provider, or combination of providers. Speaking to any of the existing HCPC approved programme providers is a good place to start. You can find their details on the HCPC web site. Next you would recruit your apprentice, just as you would with any other appointment, making an apprenticeship agreement and commitment with them. This gives details of what you agree to do for the apprentice, including:

  • how long you’ll employ them for;
  • the training you’ll give them;
  • their working conditions;
  • the qualifications they are working towards.

You can download a template for an apprenticeship agreement from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apprenticeship-agreement-template

You can also use an ‘Apprenticeship Training Agency’ if you want to employ an apprentice without the responsibility of running the apprenticeship scheme yourself. Details of this service can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apprenticeship-training-agencies

 

There are two different and independent assessments within the HAD apprenticeship. The first assessment is that which the education provider conducts to ensure that the HCPC minimum standards of competence are achieved thereby providing eligibility to apply for registration. As an example, this is no different to the current process of ‘final exams’ for a Foundation Degree. After this assessment, and when the employer is satisfied that the apprentice is ready for assessment of all parts of the apprenticeship, including any additional modules or workshops, the apprentice attends an ‘end point assessment’. This is conducted by an independent assessment organisation, this being one that has not provided the training programme. On passing this ‘final’ assessment, the individual will receive their personal apprenticeship certificate and their programme is then complete.

This depends on which education or training provider an employer wishes to partner with. My suggestion is for employers to speak with any of the providers of existing HCPC approved audiology programmes, some of whom may also appear on the Institute for Apprentices approved training provider list, which can be accessed here: https://roatp.apprenticeships.education.gov.uk/download

 

We are all breaking new ground here. It’s an exciting time, especially as the apprentice reform puts employers in the driving seat when it comes to the content and standard of the apprenticeship programme. We are all; Employers, Training Providers and Professional Bodies finding our way through how best to make the apprenticeship, work in the context of our profession. We each have to experiment with new ways of doing things, to secure the future of the hearing profession. A number of employers, both National and Independent have worked hard to establish this apprenticeship, and I really hope that in the next few years employers of hearing aid dispensers make use of this opportunity to develop their most important resource, their people.