Duncan Collet-Fenson is the UK Audiologist of the Year

AOTY 2016

Duncan Collet-Fenson Aston Hearing Services

Duncan Collet-Fenson from Aston Hearing Services in Buckinghamshire joined a familyrun business 18 years ago and now runs that business with his wife and business partner, Kate.

After months of anticipation and hundreds of nominations from across the country, the call was made to the winning UK Audiologist of the Year in mid-September. Duncan Collet- Fenson, the 2016 champion re-lives the telephone conversation, “When I received the call I was shocked. I was working off-site conducting clinical ear care and hearing assessments in our Mobile Audiology Suite – I thought that one of my colleagues was playing a practical joke. While on the call I was thinking who is this and then as the realisation slowly sank in I was stunned. Even after the call I was still half expecting a “gotcha moment’.”

But it certainly wasn’t a ‘gotcha moment’ as Duncan really has been chosen as the 2016 UK Audiologist of the Year. Duncan’s dedication to his patients shone through in the nomination from Nicola Magrath.

“Care and support well beyond the provision of hearing aids.”

As part of her detailed nomination Nicola said, “Thanks to the continued support of Duncan my story is a happy but complex one. He and his team have been there for me at every turn.

“From childhood I had an 80% hearing loss in one ear and normal hearing in the other. I lived happily with this until I experienced Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL) in my ‘normal hearing’ ear. My life had changed; I could no longer hear. With a young family I desperately needed to reconnect to the hearing world.

“I feel very fortunate at this point to have discovered Aston Hearing Services and to have met Duncan. With patience and understanding he guided me through the options and was always available to answer questions. This was especially important as I undertook more challenges and new, noisier situations.

“Duncan provides care and support well beyond the provision of hearing aids. I felt my personal story could help people understand the impact of SSHL and I have worked together with Duncan on a campaign to raise public awareness of the condition. We often give group talks and have published articles in magazines. We even ran a cookery course for a group of ladies who had similarly lost their hearing. This was a great success and allowed us all to share feelings of loneliness and isolation caused by hearing loss.

“My relationship with Duncan and his team is one of complete trust. I am very fortunate to have Duncan as my audiologist and friend and he deserves to be recognised for all his hard work and support to all his clients.”

As with many of these nominations, Nicola’s story is a long, complicated but very important one and highlights an issue that many have to deal with. Duncan explained that Nicola’s audiological history is complex, “She had experienced SSHL in her right ear and then some years later had a further attack in her left ear rendering it unaidable and worse than the poor hearing in her right ear.”

Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

The journey that Nicola and the Aston Hearing team have been through since 2005 is worthy of more indepth coverage in a future issue of Audio Infos, but it is worth highlighting that, combined with the personal experience of Duncan’s mother-in-law, this led to an awareness campaign about SSHL and emergency diagnosis that is on-going. The team were on national and local media to raise awareness of the issue. Duncan is an active member of the Association of Independent Hearing Healthcare Professionals (AIHHP) having recently served as Chairman (now taking the Treasurer role), and members of AIHHP have been offering an emergency screening service for SSHL following the Aston Hearing Services campaign.

Furthermore, following Nicola’s recent traumatic experience of SSHL, Aston Hearing met with their ENT who has now written a covering letter that they can give to anyone that presents to their office with the symptoms to go direct to GP/hospital pharmacy for the steroids without having to go through A&E triage. “This is an enormous step forward,” Duncan said.

Nicola has now agreed to join the team to run an outreach programme, where Aston Hearing Services go into the community for deaf awareness and publicity for SSHL, which includes GP practices. This next step starts in November. At the moment Nicola is doing well. Duncan said, “After Nicola’s (known to us as Nikki) hearing recovered – the whole company was elated. It was a big deal for the whole team, we all felt touched and very emotional about the whole event. Once the dust had settled, Nikki delivered a crate of wine for the team and a wonderful note saying thank you.”

And then she sent her nomination for Duncan to be chosen as the UK Audiologist of the Year to Rayovac!

It’s not always been audiology

Duncan hasn’t always been a hearing care professional. His history is an interesting one and goes someway to explaining his focus on customer care and keen involvement in marketing. Duncan spoke to Audio Infos about his route into the profession.

“I have worked for Aston Hearing since 1998. I did my training with Robert Rendell in Cheltenham and Susan Webster (my mother-in-law) was my supervisor. Prior to audiology I worked for Avon Cosmetics – in the head office in Northampton. I had an assistant marketing manager position in the marketing department. I worked in a small team of three managing the young teen make up brand – which at the time was their most successful line. Avon Cosmetics gave me experience of working in a big international business and the importance of marketing and most importantly the measurement of a marketing campaign.

I did a degree in Hotel Management at Manchester Metropolitan University. Although my route into audiology seems unusual – it was actually a perfect grounding for the job. My focus at University was very much on the importance of exceptional customer service which has always been and will always be the cornerstone or our offering at Aston Hearing.”

6 days a week and a late night Tuesday

This positive experience in marketing and customer services can now be seen in action at the Aston Hearing practices. The two centres are open six days a week and till very late on a Tuesday night. Duncan explains how he manages his time, “My day is busy. Typically I will see mainly re-assesses and follow up fittings – I try to encourage as many of the new assessments to go to our team members as my client list is full. I will normally do 3 wax removals a day – on average I see 10– 12 appointments per day. We offer a Saturday service every week and a late night Tuesday where Matthew and I see clients up to 10pm – this is a very popular service and it is great we are now able to offer two audiologists for this late night service. I try to keep Wednesday as a support day for the team and work seeing clients on a Saturday instead.”

A team award

Asked how his colleagues view the award, Duncan said, “We all feel that it is a team award and very much consolidates the vision of the practice.” So who is ‘the team’? “We have 3 full time and 2 part time audiologists and Kate [Duncan’s wife and business partner] who is qualified but works in the management side of the business and 4 reception staff and 1 marketing specialist – working over two full time centres. This is a high number of fully qualified staff for two practices but this allows us to offer 6 days a week plus evening clinics. We feel this is a model for the future of hearing care.” Judge Søren Hougaard, from EHIMA, said: “Every year we receive so many inspiring nominations and it’s wonderful to celebrate the admirable work of audiologists across Europe. On behalf of all at EHIMA, I’d like to congratulate Duncan and thank every hearing professional across Europe for the incredible difference they’re making to their patients’ lives.”

Søren will be in attendance at the Rayovac Evening of Excellence at the EUHA congress in Hanover to present the trophy to the European Audiologist of the Year for 2016. Duncan has competition from nine other countries for the title. So, congratulations on winning the UK title and good luck with the European competition Duncan!

Victoria Adshead, Audio Infos UK