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BSHAA member Paula named UK Audiologist of the Year

Paula Cook

BSHAA member Paula Cook has been named as the top hearing professional in the United Kingdom as part of a search for Europe’s best audiologist.

Paula – of Aston Hearing in Amersham, Buckinghamshire – was awarded the title of UK Audiologist of the Year 2019 on 3 October. She is now competing against other audiologists for the coveted title of European Audiologist of the Year, which will be announced on 16 October.

The annual competition is organised by hearing aid battery manufacturer Rayovac in partnership with Audio Infos magazine, the European Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (EHIMA) and the European Federation of Hard of Hearing People (EFHOH). Now in its twelfth year, the competition honours the top hearing professional in each participating country, nominated by their patients, who have received excellent levels of support, service and care from their audiologist.

Paula was nominated by her client Heather Cooper, who now lives in Turkey, having retired there following the death of her husband several years ago. The former client of Aston Hearing was pleased to hear again from staff at the clinic after liking one of their social media posts on Facebook and was delighted they still remembered her.

“From that point I kept in regular contact with them,” Heather said: “It was reassuring as, when they learned of my change in situation, they kindly offered to help in any way possible to keep me hearing – even from afar.”

Following a serious fall during which Heather injured her back, she contacted the clinic for advice. With a broken bone in her back and in a great deal of pain, Heather had contacted a neighbour, Dora, for help and the two had become friends. There was, however, an obstacle standing in the way of their communication: her neighbour, Dora, was profoundly hard of hearing. This had become a source of great frustration to them both.

Eager to help a client of Aston Hearing for 17 years, Paula arranged to take her summer holiday in Turkey at a resort near Heather’s new home. Having arranged for her audiology equipment to be taken by plane, she wasted no time in arranging to visit the pair and assess Dora’s hearing, fitting her with hearing aids from the clinic’s stock to save on cost.

'There were tears from all of us'

Describing the day, Heather said: “Paula was so kind and appreciated that Dora would find the introduction of sound at this stage of her life, having very poor hearing for the past 25 years, quite difficult. We took it slowly, but all our fears diminished as soon as she fitted the hearing aids to Dora – her face broke into the biggest smile I have ever seen. Then came the tears and emotions from all of us. We went outside of the apartment and wandered down to the beach. Dora looked astonished: ‘I can hear the sea. I feel I’ve been born again’ she said.

 “I was beyond delighted for Dora and so excited for the future and our friendship. At this point Paula had another surprise and presented me with a new pair of hearing aids too – the same as Dora’s, so we were both able to support each other with our new aids.”

Heather went on to explain that although Paula’s and Aston Hearing’s generosity and kindness was one of the reasons behind her nomination for Audiologist of the Year, it was Paula’s background and reasons for entering the profession that really hit home.

Heather explained: “Paula’s previous career, prior to becoming an audiologist, had been working for the fire brigade, but when her first child was born she focused her attention on being a mum. She was a beautiful little girl but was difficult to manage and had very challenging behaviour. She kept going back to her GP but it wasn’t until her child was three that she was diagnosed with severe hearing loss. By this time, Paula had a second child. His hearing was also tested and it transpired they both had the same genetic hearing loss.

‘Audiology is not a career for Paula, it's a lifelong vocation’

“From that moment on Paula fought for her children. She became involved in every way possible to ensure they received the best care and technology available. She was such a regular in the audiology department that they offered her a job and that was that – her career in audiology began. Audiology is not a career for Paula, it is a lifelong vocation.”

Paula has been bowled over by the award. She said: “This is completely surreal for me. I was shocked to be nominated and then to be chosen for the award, for what I consider to be a complete privilege, to have happened upon a career that has become my vocation in life. When I received the devastating news of my children Ellen and Michael’s diagnosis, I could never have imagined the path it would have taken us all on, but when I received the news I was with them both and it felt like the award was for the three of us, a culmination and recognition of our amazing journey.”

Speaking on behalf of the panel of judges, Stefan Zimmer, the secretary general of EHIMA, said: “Picking a winner from so many detailed and heart-warming nominations is never easy.  What we are looking for is those hearing care professionals who are going above and beyond merely expected levels of care in their practice. Paula was a clear winner in this regard.”

For updates on this year’s Audiologist of the Year competition, visit www.audiologistoftheyear.eu or find RAYOVAC® on Twitter @HearwithRayovac or HearwithRayovac on Facebook.

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