Internationally respected audiology at Auckland

Published: Fri 4 Sep 2015 09:50 AM
Internationally respected audiology at Auckland
Twenty-five years ago a clinical audiology training programme was established at the University of Auckland – now it is internationally respected with graduates working around the world.
In 1990 the University of Auckland set up the Audiology section and the first Masters of Audiology. Until then, science graduates interested in specialising in audiology had to go to Australia to do a Masters.
The founding academic for the Audiology section was hearing research scientist, Dr Peter Thorne who is now the Professor of Audiology, teaching hearing science and the physiological assessment of hearing to students.
Professor Thorne’s research interests now include noise-induced hearing loss mechanisms and prevention, cochlear physiology and pathophysiology, and mechanisms and diagnosis of deafness. He is also the national President of the Foundation for the Deaf.
The Audiology Masters degree was the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences’ first foray into non-medical professional health training. Since then, the Faculty has added Nursing, Pharmacy, Optometry and Health Sciences.
“There was pressure in New Zealand to establish something here to increase the professional base in Audiology and have a research based degree to develop critical thinking and enquiry,” says Professor Thorne. “We developed the degree programme and the section was based in the Physiology Department then and later was moved to Population Health.”
“We went out to Tamaki Campus to establish the Audiology Clinic in 2003/4 and this has been an important aspect of community service and student experience,” he says. “It’s enabled us to have an Audiology clinic in our local community.”
“For the last 20 years, the programme and the audiology group has been a catalyst for developing new research areas in audiology,” says Dr Thorne. “We have aimed to build research into the hearing sciences and also make strong connections with the clinical area. Translational research that we can use in clinical setting has always been an important aspect for us.
“We are very pleased to be able to celebrate a very successful first 25 years,” he says. “We have also had significant support from many individuals, clinicians, and companies. The Oticon Foundation in New Zaland gave us $700,000 to set up the clinic and has helped with the programme over a long time, so that we are able to support teaching of the highest quality – from equipment to part-time staff and tutors.”
Another founding academic for the Audiology Section, was Professor Suzanne Purdy who specialises in hearing loss and auditory processing disorders in children and adults. She joined the Section as a clinical audiologist after completing her doctorate in Speech Pathology and Audiology at Iowa in North America and now heads speech sciences at the University.
“Suzanne was a graduate of the Audiology Section and started a research career as a post-doctoral fellow in our department,” says Dr Thorne. “She has made a huge contribution to fostering clinically related research and that was and is, very important.
“For a small group, we have achieved a lot - we have specialities in hearing research, applied research and auditory processing,” he says. “The Masters programme has supported a lot of research at a high level and of international quality.”
“Our graduates are now working in Australia, Asia, the United Kingdom and South America and they are highly regarded internationally where the professional programme is also held in high regard,” says Professor Thorne.
To celebrate the first 25 years of the Master of Audiology degree at the University of Auckland, the Audiology section has organised a Research Symposium at the University from 10 September (with an evening reception) and including a two-day symposium on 11 and 12 September.
The Research Symposium is intended to celebrate and showcase hearing and vestibular research in New Zealand and is hosted by the now Head of Audiology, Dr David Welch.
The symposium recognises New Zealand contributions to hearing research and its clinical applications with a number of themes, such as Ear Physiology and Disease, Auditory Processing and Processing Disorders, Tinnitus and its Treatment, Auditory Neural Processing and Development, Population Health Studies in Hearing and Vestibular Function in Health and Disease.
While most of the presentations are by University of Auckland researchers, there are also contributions from the University of Canterbury, Victoria University of Wellington, and Macquarie University in Melbourne. A special lecture on acoustic design for concert halls will be given by Emeritus Professor Sir Harold Marshall.
Link to Audiology Research Symposium 2015

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