What is Audiovestibular Medicine?
Audiovestibular medicine is that branch of medicine dealing with the diagnosis, medical treatment, habituation and rehabilitation of children and adults with disorders of hearing and balance. It is a medical speciality with a Specialist Advisory Committee, based on Royal College of Physicians, determining the training programme.
Most Audiovestibular Physicians work closely with Otolaryngological Surgeons, much as Neurologists with Neurosurgeons or Cardiologists with Cardiac Surgeons. However Audiovestibular Medicine is a relatively new speciality in the UK (officially recognised in 1975) and at the present time, there are relatively few Audiovestibular Physicians (ca 45) compared with ENT Surgeons (ca. 500) at Consultant level in the UK. The numbers have been steadily rising: the increase has not been slowed by the recent changes in the NHS. The original establishment of Audiological Medicine (as it was called until recently and still is for training purposes) stemmed in part from the changing patterns of the aetiology of hearing and balance disorders, formerly caused predominantly by infectious conditions but now due more to genetic, traumatic and degenerative disorders very few of which are amenable to surgical treatment.
Whilst certain Audiovestibular Physicians cover all aspects of the speciality, some concentrate mainly or exclusively on children, others on adults. Some are interested more in hearing problems and tinnitus and others in balance disorders. The training programme for the speciality, however, is designed to ensure that all trainees receive a high level training in every aspect of the specialty and includes the chance to complete an MSc or Diploma course in Audiovestibular Medicine in addition to the years of clinical training.
Audiovestibular Physicians work in multidisciplinary teams with other Audiological and allied Professionals including Hearing Therapists, Speech Therapists, Physiotherapists and Clinical Psychologists, and in close collaboration with allied medical specialities including not only ENT but also Neurology, Geriatrics, General (Internal) Medicine, Paediatrics and Clinical Genetics.