Dr Nur Shasa Ain Abdul Aziz
Degree title and year of programme: BSc Audiology, 2008
Current job title: CEO & Head of Audiology at Eartistic Hearing & Balance Centre, Malaysia
What attracted you to study a BSc Audiology at UCL?
There were two reasons why I chose Audiology at UCL. The first was because I have always wanted to study at UCL, ever since I was little. My brother was studying at Southbank University, and every year I passed through the main UCL gates, I told myself I will study here one day.
And why Audiology? Because I have always been a singer and song writer and so it was either Audio Engineering or Audiology that I planned to study. I started suffering from tinnitus at the age of 11 due to theatre exposure (I think) and being an ice skater, vestibular subjects are a part of me. So learning about audiology was like learning about me.
What made you decide to focus on tinnitus?
I am a tinnitus sufferer myself but I have habituated to it as I developed it so early and I thought it was normal. But what sealed the deal was when I was mentored by Dr Lucy Handscomb when I was a doing my student placement at St Marys Hospital back in 2005. She really enabled me to understand the whole process of tinnitus and how patients go through it in different ways, and of course how to manage it.
It was almost like it was normal for me from there. I could relate to it personally and professionally. Additionally, I realise how important our support is to the patients with tinnitus as we can help them to manage tinnitus so they can get back on their feet and get on with their lives.
What did you like best about studying at the UCL Ear Institute?
The lecturers definitely. We had Prof Deepak, Dr Ghada, Paul Radomsky and everyone who were so supportive and truly wanted us to succeed. I definitely had a great exposure to the allied healthcare here too and it prepared me to work inter-professionally. Thanks to the exposure, I now work with allied healthcare in my businesses too.
After graduating from UCL, you established a network of audiology clinics in Malaysia that see people with tinnitus and hearing problems. Can you tell us how this evolved?
I now run a business called Eartistic and currently have seven branches across Malaysia. We serve almost all of the hospitals for hearing aid devices, assistive listening devices and others. I give talks on tinnitus to raise awareness among the GPs in Malaysia and other professionals so they are aware that there’s more to be done then “just living with it”. This also helps society become aware of the condition and the importance of how to support people suffering from it. We support patients with tinnitus patients and help them until they become habituated to the condition.
What does your average working day involve?
As a founder, I focus a lot more on the business and teaching side of things compared to clinical work now. And my schedule is pretty dynamic. However, I still practice tinnitus management for high profile patients. So no one day is the same for me.
What you think are some of the challenges in treating tinnitus and how do you think we can work towards addressing these challenges?
The challenge that is quite common is that patients want a cure and we have yet to find a quick fix for the condition. So the challenge is always to get patients to habituate as quickly as possible. So far, in most cases we are able to get patients to habituation in the first two appointments through as simple as Tinnitus Retraining Therapy approach but there will be patients that we will have to go through a full course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to get there. In my opinion, we need to find more options to help patients in treating tinnitus. I have encountered a few options from sound therapy and lasers but these are too expensive, especially for the Malaysian market.
What would you say to someone interested in studying at the UCL Ear Institute?
I would highly recommend it! It gives you the best structure to prepare you for work in the real world. It has been a while since I’ve been back in UCL but I’m sure the quality and support is better than ever.