Dave Jay is a pre-registration Clinical Scientist in Audiology at Manchester Royal Infirmary and a graduate of the MSc Audiology course at Manchester. Here, he describes his journey from working in the music industry to training as a clinical audiologist.
I first became interested in audiology whilst working as a sound engineer in the music industry for the 10 years that followed my undergraduate degree in Music, Acoustics and Recording at the University of Salford.
As a musician and professional audio engineer who needed his ears working at a very high level most days of the week, I began to read more about the anatomy and physiology of hearing and, fascinated by the subject, I applied to do an MSc in Audiology at The University of Manchester.
Returning to education
Manchester was the only choice for me, as not only was I already living in the city, but I had heard it was one of the best places to study the subject in the country, if not in Europe (a lot of the early work in audiology was overseen by the Ewings in the mid-20th century).
My experience of going back to university at the age of 31 was fantastic, as not only did I have a great deal of respect and awe for the institution in which I was studying, but I was also comparatively much more motivated to learn than the first time I went to university! Perhaps I was just a little more mature?
I undertook this tough, busy and academically dense course in my final year of working in the music industry whilst on tour with several bands and during the run-up to organising my own wedding!
Going into clinical training
Although it was a very hard year, I realised that I wanted a career change, and would very much like to work in healthcare as a clinical audiologist.
I applied for the NHS’s very competitive Scientist Training Programme (STP), took the infamous psychometric tests and attended a nerve wracking speed-dating style interview panel. Much to my surprise, I was accepted onto the programme and started a paid job in September 2014 at Manchester Royal infirmary as a trainee clinical scientist in audiology.
The three years of on-the-job training have also been pretty hard-going, not just because of the amount of work involved in doing a MSc in Clinical Science whilst working a full-time job, but also because after the first year of training my wife gave birth to an amazing baby girl, Josephine.
During my STP experience, I went on rotations in neurophysiology, biochemistry and radiology. I also observed brain surgery, spent time with ophthalmologists and orthoptists, devised, carried out and wrote up a large research project for my dissertation, filled out a huge clinical portfolio, and gradually improved my clinical audiology skills.
Learning about audiology in the US
As part of the STP, you are required to do an elective rotation, which can be spent anywhere you like in the world pursuing any special interests you might have. My own special interest, vestibular audiology (dizziness and balance), took me to the USA.
My interest in vestibular diagnostics (trying to figure out whether patient’s dizziness is caused by their inner ears, their brain or some other factor), led me to email a professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland about a particular project he is running in emergency medicine. His team have been using diagnostic techniques familiar to audiologists in order to improve the accuracy with which they can differentiate between benign inner ear problems and cerebellar strokes in acutely dizzy patients.
After they offered to let me visit for a month to observe their work, I applied for a Winston Churchill Memorial trust grant to travel overseas, so that I can research this cutting-edge practice and come back to the UK to spread awareness of the techniques and work being done in America. I learnt an awful lot about cutting-edge vestibular techniques, and with a lot to share when I got back.
Final destination: working in clinical science
Manchester Royal Infirmary offered me a job to stay on doing complex hearing assessment and management, cochlear implant audiology and vestibular audiology.
When I think of how my life has turned out compared to how it was five years ago, it is a bit bonkers, but I am very lucky that I have been able to change career, pursuing an interest in science among people who share that interest for the benefit of so many patients that do need our help.