Audiology: Siobhan McGinnity

Siobhan McGinnity (MClinAud 2013) is a clinical audiologist, PhD candidate and founder of Musicians 4 Hearing, a not-for-profit organisation supporting hearing care projects in the developing world. Siobhan is currently researching ways to prevent hearing loss in the music industry at the HEARing Cooperative Research Centre (CRC).

Photo by Greg Holland

1. What inspired you to study a Master of Audiology at the University of Melbourne?

I became enamoured with Audiology as a profession from the moment I stumbled upon it in a hospital corridor. It felt like the perfect combination of my love of science, sound and helping people. I applied to every university in Australia, but Melbourne’s offer stood out. In large, I was drawn to the culture the city brings, and the idea of studying within its urban landscape.

2. Do you have a highlight from your time studying?

I was given the opportunity to turn on a teenagers Cochlear Implant for the very first time. She hadn’t heard sound before; it was a really special moment.

3. Why did you establish Musicians 4 Hearing? 

After my degree, I travelled overseas to volunteer as an Audiologist. While I was there, we tested a young boy around the age of three. He wasn’t speaking, he wasn’t communicating and by all tests, appeared to have both hearing and developmental concerns. I’ll never forget turning to the worker there and saying, ‘Here’s the results, he’ll need to see a paediatrician and ENT, who do I make the referral out to?’ – their response – ‘What ENT? What paediatrician?’ It hit me then, the privilege we experience in Australia, as I watched as the interpreter explained to his father that his son was profoundly Deaf and there were no services nearby to help.

4. Can you tell us more about your different professional roles and commitments?

As an audiologist, I work in the teaching clinic, where I get to share my passion for hearing health with students as we see patients. I also lecture in tinnitus management and the care of musicians. For my PhD, I research the prevention of hearing injury in the music industry, working closely with the organisation HEARsmart, to use our research for good. As a musician, I’ve played with bands such as Ali Barter or Henry Wagons on keys and backing vocals, but I’m now out on my own, under Magnets. It’s a great release.

5. What are some of the highlights of your career so far?

As a researcher, winning the award for best presentation at the National Hearing Conservation Association of America’s annual conference.

As an activist, seeing the thank you notes come back from people we’ve helped hear again.

As a musician, I am proud to be organising an International Women’s Day line-up lead by WoC, NB and trans-femme individuals, to be held on March 8. All proceeds from this event will go to Girls Rock, a music and education program that aims to empower young female, transgender and gender diverse people.

6. What is ‘good health’ to you?

Balance. I recently burnt out in a way full of irony, I went deaf. I was diagnosed with Meniere’s late last year, losing my balance and part of my hearing for the very first time. It’s stabilised now and returned to normal, however, I now live with the uncertainty of whether it will happen again. So, for me, I’m newly committed to balancing life with leisure, and remembering to honour my introverted side.

7. What excites you most about the future?

I’m currently really excited about the change in tone for women. I feel we’ve entered a new movement towards equality, and that can only trickle down to help in all areas, including music, work and health.

8. Is there anything you would like to add? Anything you’d like to share with current or aspiring audiology students?

Audiology is a great profession if you love mixing art with science. There’s a lot of scope for creativity, and the daily reward of making someone’s life a little easier is a constant buzz.