In this column, we meet a multi-skilled personality Mrs Meera Babu who started her career as an advocate, became an entrepreneur and has been practising as a hearing care professional for the past 8 years. In this conversation, she explains how and why she pursued this profession along with the education background required and opportunities in this field.
ACG: What brought you to this audiology profession?
Meera Babu: I suffered a personal hearing loss for several years without proper diagnosis. About fifteen years back, even ENT specialists were not equipped to recommend patients for audiometry tests. We can see plenty of optometrists and ophthalmologists, but the awareness of audiometry even today is not as widespread as deficiencies in eyesight. So, I decided that I should do something to bring that awareness and make sure that people with hearing losses are detected and intervene early to fix the problem. My husband was running a diagnostic centre, and we included a hearing aid clinic as part of it. I did a crash course in audiometry and that's how it all started.
ACG: Are there specialised degrees for this profession?
Meera Babu: Yes. Bachelors in Audiometry with specialisation in language pathology (BA (SLP)) is a 4 year degree program which is classified as a paramedical degree course offered in most medical colleges. One can also do an audiometry technician diploma course for two years. Ramachandra medical college, SRM University, ENT foundation are some institutes offering these programs. Madras Medical College is a government college which also offers these programs. One learns holistically about learning disabilities, speech therapy, early interventions etc in this 4-year program, and one can also continue to do a Master's program. Typically, these programs are offered in medical colleges that also have a large outpatient program. The final degree/license is given by the Rehabilitation Council of India.
ACG: How does one get into these programs?
Meera Babu: The basic requirement is 12th standard with mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology. Each college has its own entrance exam, and the seats are limited and so there is quite a bit of competition. The awareness for these programs is a lot more among Keralites than Tamilians even in colleges in Tamil Nadu.
ACG: What happens after the Bachelor's? What are the job opportunities?
Meera Babu: There is a lot of demand in rehabilitation centres and in ENT hospitals for experts in audiometry and speech therapy. While the starting salaries tend to be in the range of Rs. 25000 to Rs. 40000 per month, there are opportunities to start one's own audiometry centres, and become an entrepreneur. With a lot of awareness now among young and aged people, there is a lot of demand to do service to the hearing-impaired people. Service charges range from Rs.300 to Rs.2000 per hour. More than salary, there is a lot of satisfaction in solving people's problems. And just as other service-oriented professions, one succeeds with good service, passion, rapport and networking. There is also a lot of demand abroad to do a Master's degree and even for jobs there. Typically, those who can afford to fund their Master's abroad tend to follow this path.
ACG: Any final words?
Meera Babu: If you have the passion to solve people's problems, then a paramedical profession like audiology expert comes close to medical profession, and some of the readers should definitely explore!