Aspiring hearing-disorder experts no longer have to travel abroad to study, with the National University of Singapore (NUS) now offering a two-year master's degree in audiology.
The course is the first local training pathway for audiologists, who work alongside doctors to diagnose ear-related health problems among patients and fit hearing devices. Its first intake of 18, comprising students aged between 22 and 46, started classes in August.
The move will help to increase the number of these professionals in Singapore from the current 60 - all of whom were trained overseas, in countries such as the Philippines and India. But Singapore's greying population means that the demand for their services will grow.
Already, the latest National Health Survey found that one in five Singaporeans aged 50 to 59 suffers from some form of hearing impairment.
The rate rises to one in four for those between 60 and 69. Health Minister Gan Kim Yong described the new NUS programme as "a significant milestone".
"To meet the health-care needs of our rapidly ageing population, we need to grow our audiologist manpower pool and continually develop their capabilities," he said yesterday at the launch of the degree.
Nine scholarships for the course have been given out, mostly by the Health Ministry.
Associate Professor Lynne Lim, a specialist at National University Hospital (NUH) who heads the new programme, pointed out that the level of training can be "uneven" across different countries.