Interview with an Audiologist
Digital Hearing Instruments, Free hearing test, Hearing Training & Rehabilitation
Hearing It from Sonja KremerOne out of every five residents in Singapore is a foreigner and approximately three out of four audiologists in Singapore are not locals. Just like T-shirts, our audiologists come in different colors and sizes. But unlike T-shirts, there are not too many around.We have audiologists from different parts of the globe working in Singapore. Some you’ll see in hospitals or in manufacturing companies, others working for private hearing centres, and a few running their own private practice like our featured audiologist, Sonja Kremer from Germany.Sonja has been in Singapore since 2002 and worked for a hearing aid manufacturer for 5 years. She now runs her own hearing aid centre, European Hearing, in Mosque St. Chinatown. Knowing Sonja, she is a person who is very passionate in life. Sonja the audiologist is also Sonja the social worker, Sonja the business woman, Sonja the artistic and Sonja the romantic. I couldn’t help smiling while I read Sonja’s answers to my questions below. I have to say this lady’s charm exudes not only in person but in writing as well.I don’t have to say much to convince you of Sonja’s allure. If you read on, you will know what I mean.Why did you take up Audiology?There are different influences in my life which made me decide to work in the field of Audiology. Most likely the biggest driver was that I enjoy working with people. Of course there are many professions providing that requirement, but all my life I was involved in the deaf community. One of my cousins was born deaf and he is only 6 months older than me. Basically we grew up together the first 5 years of our life. After that, his family moved closer to the School for the Deaf which was about 50km away. But anyway I was pretty good with sign language that time. After I finished my high school I went to a vocational training to become an Ophthalmic Optician. One year after graduation I felt bored and I was thinking of something else to add on. Well, in Germany many hearing healthcare clinics are combined with ophthalmic opticians, meaning people are mostly qualified in both fields. Due to my history I knew it might give me a lot of pleasure to work with hearing impaired people. So it is until now. Since 1997 I work exceptionally in the field of Audiology.Can you tell us about your educational background and work experience?I went through a “normal” educational pathway in Germany which means, prime/secondary and after that high school. After high school I decided not to study in a University program rather in a vocational program. In Germany Vocational Education and Training is a joint government-industry program which enables and provides quality general education combined with excellent specific training for a profession or a skilled occupation. It is a very outstanding and unique training which can’t be found in many other countries. I really liked the fact that what ever I have learned in theory will be applied in “on the job” training after that. It is so much more ground touching than University education. So, I went trough the 3 years of vocational training to become an Ophthalmic Optician and succeeded there. After that I started the vocational training with the Akadmie in Lübeck (Germany) to become a Specialist for Hearing Aid Acoustics – which involves Audiology and much more. The training again takes 3 years before one can graduate as an Audiologist from there. After another few years I challenged myself in picking up the Masters Hearing Aid Acoustics and that’s what I am now since then.I have been working in several independent and specialized clinics (in both professions) all over Germany, mainly working with adult hearing impaired people and also deaf communities, followed by five years working for a hearing instrument manufacturer, Siemens Medical Instruments in Singapore.When and why did you move to Singapore?December 2002 I moved to Singapore because of a Singaporean which I have met in Germany. After going back and forward from Singapore to Germany I decided to give it a try to live in Asia. It was just nice that Siemens Medical Instrument was looking for an Audiologist that time. I am sure Mr. Clifton Hong can still remember the first time he interviewed me, because I talked more with my hands than with my mouth… 8 years of English lessons were somewhere hidden in dusty areas of my brain. However, bottom line, I moved to Singapore because of love.How do you find life in Singapore?Here and there I experience small cultural shocks but after all I like the fact that we have a very multicultural society in Singapore. It is here where you can meet easily people from all over the world. I also like it that nature is green all the time and other Asian destinations are just right there at the doorstep. How often do you go back to Germany?I try to go back twice a year not to feel homesick and of course to see my family and friends. Sometimes I miss the cold weather and the crispy cold air in winter.What are your hobbies?My hobbies are chatting, after all I am German and we like to talk a lot. I like to travel, I like watching movies in theatre. I make it a point to support most of the art festivals in Singapore because I really love art in nearly any form. Since a few years I am practicing yoga which gives me a great pleasure too. I have 10 parrots and to take care of them is actually more than a hobby.What’s your most meaningful experience as an audiologist?Actually there are really a lot of great experiences I had throughout all this years and I am sure there are more to come. However, I would like to share two of them. The first one happened in 1991 when I was at the beginning of my career as an Audiologist. I had a customer with a very profound hearing loss and she was using a Philips Pocket Aid since ever. She used to have self-made-pouches for it! Anyway, she was opting for something new and so she got a Danavox super power BTE, which had at that time state-of-the-art feedback reduction – a digital-conventional technology. This lady was so thankful because finally she was able to do at least short phone calls with her sister, which was living in Poland. And of course the convenience and sound quality of the BTE was much better too. The second story I would like to share happened just recently with a long-term hearing aid user. Since 1968 he was suffering from a highly severe Noise Induced Hearing Loss and he had used many different systems as one can imagine. However, I fitted him with Pure 700 and Tek with a 65dB receiver and he is so happy now. Mainly due to two things, firstly he can easily talk with his son in USA via mobile phone and understand the TV clearly. Both due to the convenient Bluetooth function in Pure and Tek. Finally hearing aid wearer can enjoy additional electronic devices more extensively. It is so fantastic to see the changes in technologies. Today we are so much more able to react onto peoples needs.What is it that you love most about being an audiologist?Talk, talk, talk! Learning every day and to make things better for other people’s life.How do you picture the profession of Audiology in Singapore 5 years from now?The profession of trained Audiologists and related professions are getting more important all over the world. Majorities of countries – especially in the developed world – have an aging population. Elderly people are also living a more active lifestyle than before and conversation and interaction with other is important. However, most of them facing problems with hearing. Also the younger generations will acquire hearing loss in an earlier stage due to the usage of many electronic devices like mobile phones, mp3 their busy and noisy lifestyle and so. Especially in urban places like Singapore, the general noise level is rather high. The trend is already there, many people in the end forties or early fifties suffering from a mild high frequency loss.Looking at the future perspective regarding specialized hearing care studios in Singapore I believe, that we will have a better general standard sooner or later. Currently anybody can fit hearing aids. Some dispenser running through a short training from manufacturers, which after gaining some guided years of experience, can be very sufficient in order to do a good job. However, it might be reasonable to create a certain standards in training and education of people working in this line, to protect the hearing aid user from unqualified personnel. Where should our readers go if they want to have a consultation with you?Last year I decided to set up my own hearing care studio in Singapore. European Hearing is located in the heart of Chinatown, easy to find in 24 Mosque Street, a small street close to the Chinatown MRT station. Chicken rice: steamed or roasted? (When you weren’t vegetarian yet)In my previous life as a meat eater I used to choose roasted chicken rice. Knowing that this is ? 2 of the famous dishes among “Westerners” – I only ate it approximately 10 times in my life. When it comes to Chinese cuisine ? 1 by the way is “sweet sour …” as you might have noticed. The question though is interesting… why did you ask that?
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