Tuning in from around the world
What do students from such faraway countries as Nigeria, Mexico and Iran have in common? A singular desire to study for a Master of Clinical Audiology in Australia at Macquarie University. The main drawcard, they say, was the world-class research and clinical facilities in hearing health and care that, even as far away Africa, Central America and the Middle East, were well known.
In their stories below, Ifeyinwa Felicia Okonkwo from Nigeria, Frida Montserrat Sais Marroquin from Mexico and Shaghayegh Sedaghat Modabberi from Iran each share their reasons for choosing Macquarie to study for their two-year post-graduate qualifications, their experiences as a student here and their hopes for their professional futures. These three examples show how studying audiology at Macquarie University has inspired lifelong learning and, most importantly, has provided international students with pathways to professional success to continue here, or to apply their expertise back home.
Ifeyinwa Felicia Okonkwo, Frida Montserrat Sais Marroquin and Shaghayegh Sedaghat Modabberi in the lobby of the Australian Hearing Hub
Choosing to study audiology
A few years ago, when hospital pharmacist Ifeyinwa Felicia Okonkwo needed the services of a clinical audiologist for her three-year-old son, it proved extremely difficult for her to access these services in her home country of Nigeria. This not only set in train for Ifeyinwa a steep learning curve about paediatric audiology, but also put her on a course to change her career in healthcare.
“I had always thought of hearing issues as being for the elderly, a natural and unavoidable effect of aging. It had never occurred to me that children could need the same services, or that hearing loss, even profound hearing loss, could be managed to provide better wellbeing and economic outcomes for children born with hearing loss. After my son needed evaluation, I decided that I wanted to become an audiologist,” she says.
Macquarie’s world-class facilities
Ifeyinwa’s son’s problem was resolved with therapy after a year, but she was still determined to search for a world-class audiology education. This led her to Australia. “I chose Macquarie University when I found out about the Australian Hearing Hub, where researchers, educators, clinicians and innovators were all under one hypothetical roof,” she says. “I just knew I would be exposed to the best that the profession had to offer from the beginning.”
Ifeyinwa also liked that Macquarie is dedicated to caring for student wellbeing and emotional health. “Travelling far away from home to study can be difficult if you don’t have the right support system,” she says.
Challenging study meeting high expectations
Although Ifeyinwa found the Master of Clinical Audiology challenging at first, given she originally studied pharmacy, she has found it nonetheless rewarding. “I have gone from knowing nothing about audiology to being knowledgeable in one short semester. The approach to learning is one that incorporates scientific knowledge, with technical skills and existing research to make evidence-based clinical decisions,” she says. “To put it simply, it’s learning by doing exactly what audiologists in the field are doing – by watching them do it and getting a chance to try it out yourself. I can already see how upon graduation, I will feel like a seasoned clinical audiologist.”
Two passions of pharmacology and audiology
Ifeyinwa’s background in pharmacy has made her want to examine the intersection between medications and hearing. “I’m interested in research that is trying to find pharmaceuticals that can prevent noise-induced hearing loss and drug-induced hearing loss, and the mechanisms by which they achieve this,” she says. “I also want to explore the use of technology and data to obtain better outcomes in hearing health.”
A future in the field, taking world-class expertise back home
“I would like to start an initiative in Nigeria similar to what is in place in Australia where all new-borns get their hearing screened within the first few weeks of their life,” says Ifeyinwa. She believes that implementing such a program in Nigeria can make a significant impact in the life of people born with hearing loss. “I also hope to explore my interest in the use of medicines to prevent drug-induced hearing loss, and noise-induced hearing loss through post-graduate research.”
Ifeyinwa says her experience at Macquarie to date has motivated her to seek ways to improve on the status quo either here or back in Africa through the implementation of her research in her future clinical audiology practice. “Australia has always led the world in hearing research and hearing healthcare and that’s what I hope to take away with me.”
Overcoming language barriers to pursue audiology education
In Mexico, Frida studied undergraduate physiotherapy. However, during her studies, audiology and speech therapy caught her attention, although she says she “had no other knowledge in hearing studies other than basic vestibular rehabilitation”. Since most of the master’s degrees she was interested in overseas required a high level of English proficiency, Frida came to Australia four years ago to study the language.
Finding the right course; pursuing excellence
“While I was studying English, I searched post-graduate programs in audiology across the globe,” she says. “Unexpectedly, I found that the Master of Clinical Audiology at Macquarie University is highly recognised in this field. Plus, it had outstanding facilities available for the students of this program, and a significant amount of research in audiology had been done here.”
Frida says that in Mexico there was no option to study audiology in either a bachelor’s or master’s degree course. “Furthermore, the profession is practiced exclusively by doctors,” she says.
Sharing knowledge in a research-rich and culturally supportive institution“Studying at Macquarie offers students and academics a unique multicultural community where professionals from all sorts of backgrounds are able to share their knowledge,” says Frida. “I believe, this enriches our professional and academic development.”
Looking to the future, Frida says she is particularly interested in vestibular assessment tests. “I would like to specialise in the vestibular diagnostic tests and management,” she says, “and if I have the opportunity, I would also like to do research in vestibular rehabilitation strategies.”
From undergraduate interest in audiology to post-graduate passion
Shaghayegh graduated from Hamedan University of Medical Sciences in Iran with a bachelor’s degree in audiology. “At the beginning of my degree, I wasn’t a big fan of my audiology major, but by the end of it, I loved it!” says Shaghayegh, who is known by her friends in Australia as Ieren. “I realised I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to continue my path in the field.”
After university, Shaghayegh practiced newborn screening and hearing thresholding in Iranian hospitals and a clinic for a year, but it was while she was still studying as an undergraduate in Hamedan that the idea of eventually furthering her education in Australia took hold, after a conversation with her mother.
A family phone-call leads to a Macquarie application
“Three years ago, mum visited my aunt who lives in Australia and heard about the Macquarie hearing clinic. She called me and said she could picture me walking into this university to go to my classes. It was actually one of her wishes to send me to Australia so when I decided to migrate, Australia was my priority,” says Shaghayegh.”Australia is one of the most advanced countries in the field of audiology and Macquarie has a great ranking. I was very honoured when I got accepted.”
Clinical practice makes perfect
Despite Shaghayegh’s undergraduate qualifications and clinical experience in audiology, she found lots to learn in the master’s degree course. “Hamedan University has good ranking in Iran, and I loved going there, but the bachelor course in audiology had only a brief introduction on many subjects, so that we couldn’t practise everything.”
Although Shaghayegh has found the study more difficult here in Australia, and mastering the high-level of English required added to that challenge, she says she values the opportunities to apply her growing knowledge to practice. “For instance, we are actually seeing clients with specific diagnostic strategies, and at Macquarie, we are more encouraged to do research, whereas in Iran the major was mostly coursework.”
A future in paediatric audiology
Shaghayegh is halfway through her study and is looking forward to more opportunities in the future to practice in clinical placements with significant diagnostic tools on various patients. She is also hoping to participate in a research team.
“Both theorical subjects and placements in Paediatrics Audiology has been the most interesting area so far,” says Shaghayegh. “I am looking forward to working and researching relative to paediatrics in future, but I am open to other opportunities as well. For example, I realised audiologists can be involved in surgical procedures. I haven’t done much research about how and when, but I am very keen to know more about it as it sounds highly interesting and challenging.”
So will Shaghayegh stay in Australia? Depending on future professional opportunities, she’s certainly thinking about it. “I’ve been here in Australia for a year now and I am loving it.”
Are you thinking about studying audiology? If so, visit our webpages for undergraduate study or for post-graduate study . You’ll find all the information you need, including contact details of coursework specialists for further advice.