UCL Ear Institute


Q&A with alumna Rachel Crum

21 March 2024

UCL Ear Institute alumna Rachel Crum was recently named British Academy of Audiology student of the year. She talks about the highlights of her time studying audiology and how it has prepared her for her current career.


Congratulations on being named British Academy of Audiology student of the year! What does this recognition mean to you?

Unbelievably amazing! So lovely for my whole family as it has been very much a group effort, providing me with a lot of emotional and practical support. And, of course, huge credit goes to the UCL Ear Institute for the excellent teaching and mentoring support, enabling me to thrive. I’ve never been awarded a trophy before, a very proud moment! And to achieve this with my other responsibilities and as a mature student feels extra special.

Why did you choose to study audiology and what made you choose the UCL Ear Institute?

I had worked as a Chemistry teacher for more than 10 years and was looking for a new challenge. So after my third child was born, I started looking for jobs that were in the scientific field and that involved working closely with people as I felt these were my areas of strength.

I had some experience of the importance of hearing care as my grandmother was profoundly deaf and I remember the isolation she felt at being unable to join in socially due to her hearing loss. Her hearing aids (when working!) enabled her to be ‘present’ in the room, so I felt this could be a really rewarding area to work in. Additionally, my husband had a vestibular problem which exposed me to the amazing work of audiologists! 

The work I observed appeared to be fascinating, technical and life changing for patients. So, the opportunity to study audiological science and make a huge difference to people’s lives was really attractive to me! I also have to admit I was quite excited to study again as I really love learning!

After much research the MSc Audiological Science with Clinical Practice on offer at the UCL Ear institute stood out due to the university’s fantastic reputation, being world renowned for its research into hearing and deafness, and the course on offer looked fascinating, with modules from various disciplines related to hearing as well as the core diagnostics and rehabilitation required. The course is designed for students without an audiological background which was perfect for me having previously studied a chemistry degree. And importantly for me, as a mum, the course could be completed flexibly over five years. I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunity to retrain in a way that can fit around my responsibilities.

What have you enjoyed most/found rewarding about Audiological Science MSc

Literally every module has been fascinating and challenging, with course materials well organised, easily accessible and full of the latest research. When I started, I hadn’t studied for many years but it wasn’t an issue, I found all the lecturers to be approachable and encouraging with the real sense that they care about each student and their ability to succeed. I also love how we got to visit lots of hospitals to observe clinics, getting a real feel for what it would be like to work as an audiologist.

Can you tell us about the theme of your dissertation and why you chose this topic?

For my dissertation I wrote a systematic review of the evidence-based interventions for adults with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD). APD is still quite a controversial area of audiology with many misconceptions. Most research and clinical guidance documents focus on the diagnosis of APD, as opposed to interventions, with research predominately based on the paediatric population. The opportunity to conduct a review of the interventions used for adults with APD was very appealing as I could see how useful the research would be for clinicians and researchers.

I presented a poster of my work at the recent British Academy of Audiology (BAA) conference, which was a great experience.

What are your plans for the future once you have completed your degree? How has this course helped prepare you for this?

I now have a job working as an audiologist at my local hospital where I completed my clinical training year. The course gave me a high standard of subject knowledge and extensive clinical practice enabling me to feel confident in my role. The second year modules also had a focus on critical thinking which I personally found useful when problem solving in my day to day work.

Although my current job involves the assessment and rehabilitation of adults, the modules on paediatric audiology and balance have given me a good grounding for the future should I choose to specialise further.

What advice would you give incoming students to this course?

Just do it! You won’t look back. The audiological field is so varied, this course can open up many avenues that at the moment you don’t even realise exist.

Be prepared to work hard as the course is quite intense! However, the course leaders are aware of this and provide the support you need.

I feel so grateful to have been given the opportunity as a mature student and as a mother, to be able to re-train and finally find a job I love! I can honestly say my time at the Ear Institute has been life changing for me.