sue falkingham baa president

Interview: Sue Falkingham on audiology, BAA, and person-centered care

By Clint McLean

Sue Falkingham blazed through her two-year term as president of the British Academy of Audiology (BAA), steering the organization towards greater cooperation with other audiology bodies, securing regional BAA reps throughout the country, and entering partnerships with organizations like Ida along the way. 

As she walks away from leading the UK’s largest organization of hearing and balance professionals, she looks back on her term with keen hindsight and looks forward with visions of how to spend her newly discovered free time. Did we hear something about archery?

What phrase have you uttered more than any other these last two years?

“I’m an audiologist.” I’ve been working towards greater unity for the audiology sector, and although we have stepped off to reevaluate where we are going with this theme, I still believe that the UK needs a more coherent voice and should work together to have a louder voice for audiology and the people we serve in the UK.

Which project from the last two yours are you most proud of?

Regional groups. Getting our regional group leads in place again so that over the next six months we will have a meeting in every area of the UK for local audiologists to learn together. I hope the group leads feel valued. We ran an Ida train-the-trainer workshop with them so we can disseminate the principles of person-centered care across our members at a local level. I really think the Ida team helped our regional groups feel stronger and it’s been great to see their first meetings taking place. I need to credit Heather Dowber and Karen Shepherd from the BAA Board for organizing the group leads, too.

If you could change one thing about the last two years, what would it be?

I would have loved projects to happen faster. I don’t want more time as President, but I wish some of the things we worked on had already started functioning. They will — the foundations are good — but they take so long when everyone working on these projects has full-time jobs.

During your time as president, BAA became an Ida partner. Why did you feel that was important?

Ida makes sense to me. As a hearing therapist and a specialist audiologist in adult rehabilitation, I believe it’s all about the people we help and support — not the technology. If we can get BAA members concentrating on the potential of the person they are seeing and bringing out that potential by truly listening and working towards shared goals, it doesn’t matter what is going on in terms of politics and service provision. Putting the client first is what audiology should be about; helping someone live to their potential. 

Ida produces tools you can work with clinically. They are simple to learn but highly effective in guiding audiologists to be person-centered. The tools are great for our early professionals since they guide them in developing person-centered counseling skills. I love the Ida way of learning with ethnographic videos too, it’s great to see the interactions and reflect on them in safe spaces.

Greatest lesson learned?

I’m values based; to achieve the end result I will not compromise my values.

Do you have your eye on any other extracurricular activities now that your term is over?

Not for work. I’ve made a promise to my husband not to volunteer for anything for the next 12 months. We saw an archery introduction a few months ago but I couldn’t make all the dates required to attend so maybe we’ll look at that again. I think I would be great with a bow and arrow in hand. Watch out everyone!

Any advice for Karen Shepherd as she comes into the role?

Be yourself, work with the fantastic team you have helped me to develop and remember it’s about the person sitting in front of each of our members looking for support.