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Shortage of Audiologists

2020 marks the beginning of a new decade. This year promises to hold much in store, including the World Report on Hearing (WRH) at the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) in May 2020. Dr. Jackie Clark, a clinical professor at the University of Texas at Dallas and a co-founder/co-director of the Coalition for Global Hearing Health, has given us some points to look forward to in this address. These points highlight the importance of audiology in the greater health community.

Dr. Clark brings forward several important points that will surely be addressed in the World Report on Hearing. First, the WRH will likely include at least four of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were determined by the United Nations in 2015. The three major aims of all 17 SDGs are to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that people enjoy peace and prosperity between now and 2030. The 17 goals were also designed to be universal, and thus implementable and achievable for low-, middle-, and high-income countries.

The four SDGs most likely to be addressed by the World Report on Hearing relates to ending poverty (Goal 1), ensuring good, healthy lives and well-being (Goal 3), improving opportunities for quality education (Goal 4), and promoting employment opportunities (Goal 8). These four goals are highly aligned with the patient-centered care that is at the heart of audiology. Proper identification, diagnosis, and treatment of hearing conditions, like hearing loss, are essential for greater educational success, employability, and overall improved quality of life.

The second major point likely to be included in the World Report on Hearing is the increased affordability and accessibility of hearing healthcare. New legislation regarding over-the-counter hearing aids does indeed open up the possibility for more patients to affordably and easily access hearing aids.

However, it is projected that by 2050, 53 million Americans will suffer from hearing loss. Although employment in the audiology field has been projected to grow by 16 percent between 2018 and 2028, the high percentage of Americans with hearing loss could easily overwhelm the number of trained hearing healthcare professionals. Dr. Clark believes this shortage of highly trained healthcare professionals will be seen on a global level.

What can be done to address this shortage? Dr. Clark suggests a process known as “task shifting.” Task shifting involves delegating and redistributing less specialized tasks to another tier of health workers who have fewer qualifications. For example, a hearing professional may be able to shift some lower-level tasks that do not require such specialized education, skills, and experience to a qualified assistant. This will allow the specialized, highly qualified professional to complete more specialized services and care for more patients.

You can also encourage students to consider a career in audiology. The more you speak about your profession and its opportunities, the more others will be drawn to careers in the field.

The World Report on Hearing that will be presented at the World Health Assembly in May promises to bring greater awareness to the current concerns in hearing care and identify the next steps for improving hearing healthcare for patients around the world. For more information about the WRH and how you can be prepared for the coming changes in the audiology field, we invite you to contact us at AudiologyPlus today. We look forward to assisting you.

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