Clinical Burnout in Audiology: Part II

Last week we discussed the issue of burnout among clinicians who provide clinical services to patients each day. While there are not a lot of studies that specifically reflect audiology, there is one that was reported in bo1New Zealand.  

In the International Audiology Journal, Stevens, Searchfield and Huggard (2012) of The Goodfellow Unit of the Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, School of Population Health, The University of Auckland, New Zealand conducted a study of burnout and other factors of clinical care.  Using a cross-sectional postal survey research design they sent to 145 members of the New Zealand Audiological Society an audiology occupational stress questionnaire (AOSQ), and the (ProQOL), the professional quality of life instrument.  Calculations on the 82 responses received suggested that burnout among audiologists was more commonbo among those who are in the clinic seeing patients daily as compared to those who did not see patients.  Other findings suggested six stress factors dominated clinical audiology: (1) time demands, (2) audiological management, (3) patient contacts, (4) clinical protocol, (5) patient accountability, and (6) administration or equipment.

There were also relationships between the increasing age of the audiologist and risk of acquiring burnout, so older clinicians were more susceptible.  Demands upon the clinician’s time and burnout were both strong predictors of low compassion for patients.  Stress associated withbo2 constant patient contact was also a strong predictor of compassion fatigue. 

If clinicians feel that burnout could be affecting them, the Mayo Clinic (2015) suggests they ask  themselves the following questions:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started once you arrive?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits or appetite changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, backaches or other physical complaints?
  • Am I simply a machine that is doing the same thing each day, what is my worth? 
  • Maybe I should do research and contribute to knowledge? 
  • Maybe I should work to develop new products, diagnostic tests or procedures that treat hearing loss rather than simply do the same thing each and every day.

If the answers to these questions are mostly “yes”, you may be in the process of burnout and the things that you can do about it are as follows:bo3

1. Recognize when your passion has turned to poison.   Recognition is a key factor in seeking a solutions for the problem. 

2. Honestly assess your situation and work toward solutions. Ask yourself the above questions and decide if  you can take a break from my current situation? How long would I need?”

3. Make time for yourself daily. We all need time for ourselves each day.  It can be as simple as taking a brisk five-minute walk to the mailbox and back, grabbing your favorite cup of coffee or allowing one entire hour of uninterrupted time to just be.” Another idea is to head to bed 30 minutes earlier and cuddle up with your favorite book, she said.

4. Seek support. Talk to someone you trust about your feelings and work situation.

5. Be receptive to your own feelings and needs.  Check in with yourself throughout the day and try to respond to your needs as much as possible.  If afternoons are particularly difficult for you, plan some time to just breathe and relax during the afternoons.

As clinicians we see people in need each day. Carhart (1975) told us that the provision of clinical is the ultimate goal of all in audiology.  The provision is service is the most important and hardest job within the field. In the “Father of Audiology’s opinion, clinic was the culmination of all of the foregoing research and development.  That is, to put what we know into the practice of providing treatment to the hearing impaired is the highest level of performance in our field.   His famous 1975 statement regarding his affection for clinicians is as follows:

“The researcher can gather fact after fact at his leisure until he has a sufficient edifice of evidence to answer his question with surety.  clHow different is the clinician’s task.  He too, is an investigator but the question before him is, “What can I do now about the needs of the person who is seeking my help at this moment?”  The clinician proceeds to gather as much data as possible about his client as he can in a clinically reasonable period of time.  He does not have the luxury to wait several months or years for other facts to appear.  The decisions of the clinician are more daring than the decisions of the researcher because human needs that require attention today impel clinical decisions to be made more rapidly and on a basis of less evidence than do research decisions.  The dedicated and conscientious clinician should bear this fact in mind proudly.  His is the greater courage.”

Each and every clinician has to take the procedures and the technology of the time and digest that into a treatment program for a myriad of patients each day.  If this is taking its toll on your capabilities, consider the assessment provided above and possibly seeking treatment as yours is the highest level of performance.


Carhart, R. (1975).  Preface.  In M. Pollack (Ed) Amplification for the Hearing Impaired.  Grune & Stratton, New York. 

Craft, U. (2006). Burned Out. Scientific American Mind (June/July 2006), 17, 28-33.  Retrieved November 9, 2016.

Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. & Leiter, M. (2001).  Job Burnout.  Annual Review of Psychology, vol 51, No 1, pp-397-422.

Mayo Clinic Staff (2015). Job Burnout:  How to spot it and take action.  Healthy  Lifestyle:  Adult Health.  Mayo  Clinic.  Retrieved November 9, 2016.

Stevens, M, Searchfield, G., & Huggard, P. (2012). Occupational stress amongst audiologists:  compassion, satisfaction, compassion fatigue and burnout.  International Audiology, Vol 51 (1). pp. 3-9.  Retrieved November 14, 2016.


Clare Mann (2016).  Burnout.  Retrieved November 9, 2016.

Stone, K. (2015). Balanced clinical workloads help prevent caregiver burnout. Amplion Blog.  Retrieved November 15, 2016.


About Robert Traynor

Robert M. Traynor is a board certified audiologist with 45 years of clinical practice in audiology. He is a hearing industry consultant, trainer, professor, conference speaker, practice manager, and author. He has 45 years experience teaching courses and training clinicians within the field of audiology with specific emphasis in hearing and tinnitus rehabilitation. Currently, he is an adjunct professor in various university audiology programs.