Working life: Dr Sandra Cummings, audiological scientist

9am
I try and get to the office at this time to tackle any paperwork carried over from the previous day and check the patient schedule for the day ahead.

Our patients vary so much, from new-born babies, to distinguished 100-year-old individuals with wonderful stories to tell.

Today, the first patient is a two-month-old baby who failed the newborn hearing screening test and whose very anxious parents need reassurance.

11am

Later in the morning, I see an adult who has developed vertigo and is very unsteady and dizzy.

People with balance problems are most often referred to us by ear, nose, and throat (ENT) consultants. Our results assist ENTs in the diagnosis and management of the individual’s balance problems.

1pm

I usually forego lunch to squeeze in a patient who has either been referred by the hospital, an urgent hearing test for a child before surgery, or someone whose hearing aid has stopped working and is going on holiday the next day.

One thing that I have learnt in private practice is that you have to be available, flexible and accommodating.

2pm

The afternoon starts with a child whose parents have real concerns that their youngster has a severe hearing loss. Sometimes these parents’ gut feelings are ignored by professionals. With experience, I have found that we need to listen.

If our results do confirm their suspicions we immediately put in place a treatment plan which would include hearing aids or referral for a cochlear implant.

Even though parents may have had their suspicions, it is still very hard news to digest when the diagnosis is made, and our role as audiologists is to give them hope and offer an outline plan for how we are going to manage the problem.

4pm

In between patients, I may have to order hearing aids, return calls from patients, parents, and ENTs. I may even get a text from my son who is in college in the US, asking how to wash jumpers in the washing machine or how to cook salmon! Being an audiologist is a wonderfully challenging, rewarding, and giving profession and, after 30 years, I wouldn’t change it for anything.

6.30/7pm

I try and leave the office for 7pm at the latest to cook dinner and start with the day’s dictation.

*  Dr Sandra Cummings is an audiological scientist at the Beacon Hospital, Dublin


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