WHEN Mr Kenneth Chua, 27, graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Biomedical) degree from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in July 2013, he thought hard about his employment options.
He could either complete his Honours year and go into research, or use his undergraduate degree as a transition into a specialised field.
When he learnt that the Ministry of Health Holdings had added audiology to the list of eligible new courses for scholarship funding, Mr Chua found out more about the discipline, and decided that it was the path for him.
Population statistics estimated there were 430,000 seniors aged above 65 in 2015, and this number is expected to cross 900,000 by 2030, according to Minister for Health, Mr Gan Kim Yong.
“With the ageing population, it’s only a matter of time that more people will need help with their hearing,” says Mr Chua.
Keen to make a difference in the life of others, Mr Chua enrolled in the two-year Master of Science in Audiology programme at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine in August 2013.
He was part of the pioneer batch of 16 students to complete the course in July 2015, and joined the small pool of 60 expatriate and overseas trained audiologists practising here.
Now a clinical audiologist at Changi General Hospital, Mr Chua is happy to be contributing to a flourishing new industry in Singapore.
Right on course
Audiology is a dynamic field that involves the study of hearing, balance and associated disorders. This healthcare science profession is dedicated to preventing and managing conditions related to hearing or balance problems.
Best of all, the faculty comprises hardworking and passionate mentors who truly believe in what they do in audiology. They fuel my drive to do my best at work. They are inspirational figures that I look up to.
MR KENNETH CHUA, clinical audiologist, Changi General Hospital
Audiologists work with people of all ages, from newborns to the elderly. These professionals use specialised tests to assess hearing and balance problems, and recommend appropriate management techniques. Rehabilitation involves technology such as fitting hearing aids, middle ear implants, cochlear implants and assistive listening devices.
Mr Chua is full of praise for the programme.
He says: “It was heartening for me to see how closely physicians work with allied health professionals for the betterment of our industry, especially for children. Because of the age-sensitive period for language development, hearing has a direct impact on their lives.”
Mr Chua recalls that he was attracted to the then newly launched programme in part because of the collaboration with the University of Melbourne, which boasts an international faculty of esteemed researchers and clinicians.
The programme also offered opportunities for clinical training with state-of-the-art equipment and a new medical facility.
Mr Chua says: “We were able to do clinical work, research and even some public health education.
“The greatest highlight was working with children. Observing their progress with speech and language development was gratifying and a memorable takeaway.”
The programme also taught him to break from passive learning, as he actively participated in class discussions and critically evaluated information at a graduate level.
Mr Chua’s delivery of the internationally recognised Dangerous Decibels programme to Singapore primary school pupils gave him a unique opportunity to practise public speaking while helping youngsters learn to protect their hearing from hazardous sound levels.
The intensive nature of the training programme taught Mr Chua to quickly process and assimilate information, and the 200 hours of clinical experience with patients during his course prepared him for professional work at a busy medical centre.
The course also taught him resilience and gave him a good overview of the healthcare system in Singapore.
He says: “Best of all, the faculty comprises hardworking and passionate mentors who truly believe in what they do in audiology.
“They fuelled my drive to do my best at work. They are inspirational figures that I look up to.”
Mr Chua has no regrets taking the road less travelled.
He says: “If not for this postgraduate degree, I would probably just be working for work’s sake and I may not truly attain job satisfaction.”
Thanks to the master’s degree, he has carved out a meaningful career as a clinical audiologist at Changi General Hospital.
His work today involves recording the patient’s medical history, performing basic or advanced hearing or balance diagnostic procedures, educating and counselling patients regarding their concerns, prescribing and fitting hearing aids, as well as working with cochlear implants.
He says: “It is satisfying to be able to track a patient’s progress; to see old patients who used to be reclusive out in the community with friends because they can now hear better; or simply helping patients recover from sudden hearing loss. Being in healthcare has aligned my interest in health sciences with my love for interacting with people.”
He adds: “Audiological services are needed in our rapidly ageing population, and the professional body I represent has tremendous potential to grow in terms of its presence and professional scope of practice.”