From the Newsroom

(L-R) Caitriona Slade from Celtic Coastal Hearing Services, Sandra Konig, Secretary of the Australian College of Audiology, Marguerite Rushworth, Chair of the Australian College of Audiology, Tamara MacDonald, Audiometrist, Sarah McIntyre, 2022 Student of the year – Audiometrist, and Kylie Dicieri, Vice President of the Australian College Audiology at the National Congress in Melbourne earlier this year. Image: Contributed

Hears to local success

Emma Pritchard


What began as a simple discussion between two neighbours has transformed into a successful career change, the establishment of a renowned and widely respected local business, life-long friendships, and the development and subsequent sharing and passing-on of professional skills to a proud representative of the next generation of dedicated local employees. 

When compassionate nurse Caitriona Slade expressed an interest in embarking on a new career, she knew she wanted to remain in the healthcare industry.

And when her neighbour Marguerite Rushworth, an experienced audiometrist, suggested she consider audiometry, she heard her calling.

Over the next several months, Ms Slade made the transition from nurse to audiometrist, utilising and further developing her medical skills and intwining them with her love of working with people as she adjusted to the Zen her new role encompassed.

Under the experienced mentorship and professional guidance of Ms Rushworth, an independent provider in the field of audiometry, Ms Slade’s deep-seeded passion and commitment to her work continued to blossom strongly before she decided to pursue another new venture, one which took her out of her comfort zone and allowed her to push new boundaries.

In 2012, she established Celtic Coastal Hearing Services, a local and independently owned healthcare business in the Clarence Valley, which provides each patient with quality, personalised and dedicated service in a caring environment, and offers hearing solutions from a wide range of hearing device manufacturers to ensure the individual requirements of each patient are achieved.

As Celtic Coastal Hearing Services grew throughout the past 10 years with the generous support of local GPs and Clarence Valley residents, another simple discussion took place one day in Yamba between Ms Slade and a young woman from Palmers Island who expressed an interest in pursuing a career change, just as she had done herself.

As their friendship developed, so did a professional opportunity which both woman fully embraced.

Sarah McIntyre soon left her role in civil construction and joined Ms Slade in the field of audiometry. As the two women worked alongside each other, Ms Slade passed on the knowledge and skills she had learned and acquired from Ms Rushworth to her eager young student, who worked and studied diligently to complete her qualifications.

Impressed by her commitment, integrity, and her caring and compassionate character which endeared her to all of the patients at Celtic Coastal Hearing Services, Ms Slade nominated Ms McIntyre for the 2022 Student of the Year award through the Australian College of Audiology.

As Ms McIntyre graciously received her award at the National Congress in Melbourne earlier this year in front of a cheering crowd, including Ms Slade and Ms Rushworth, her proud achievements also reflected the incredible adventure which was set in motion all those years ago by a simple discussion.


Proud Palmers Island local Sarah McIntyre reflects on her journey into audiology and her work at Celtic Coastal Hearing Services, as she celebrates her recent Student of the Year award and her strong friendship and working relationship with her mentor, Caitriona Slade.

Sarah McIntyre (L) loves assisting members of the local community, including Marina Popko (R), through her work at Celtic Coastal Hearing Services. Image: Contributed.

“Being presented with the Student of the Year award at the Australian College of Audiology congress this year in Melbourne was a real honour and a privilege.

“I understand the responsibility of achieving this honour and have every intention of living up to its values.

“I proudly represent both the mature student and rural student in hearing care, and I believe it highlights the quality of hearing services and training that regional, independently owned businesses can provide to our local communities, and I couldn’t be prouder of that.

“I am a born and bred local girl from Palmers Island.

“In 2019 the opportunity arose for me to commence my studies in Audiometry under the practical mentorship of Caitriona Slade at Celtic Coastal Hearing Services.

“Having previously worked in civil construction, it was a gigantic leap into a new discipline.

“However, Caitriona had faith in my love of people, my practical skills and my level of integrity.

“Also, growing up on a cane farm meant that I certainly was not afraid of hard work.

“I knew I wanted to spend my life engaging in meaningful interactions with people.

“It was with this intention that I made the clear decision to undertake my apprenticeship with a local, non-multinational, independent provider whose focus was on people not profit.

“The friendship that has grown between Caitriona and myself over the years shines through on how we work together for the benefit of our clients.

“We really do our best, we love what we do, and we laugh with our clients.

“I have grown both professionally and personally from my interactions with the people I have met on my journey.

“People with hearing impairment have shown me how to be resilient and courageous in the face of adversity, and that is how I wish to be as a clinician.

“I spotted a need in the local area for a wax removal (micro suction) service, and I feel strongly that our local community should not be forced to seek services at Metropolitan sites.

“Having obtained my specialist wax micro suction qualifications at Macquarie University in Sydney, I commenced by own local service, Clarence Clear Ears proudly caring for ear health in the Clarence Valley.

“My Student of the Year award has pride of place in my home and my heart.

“At the end of the day, I shall always uphold high standards. award or no award, that won’t change.

“The best award for Clarence Clear Ears and Celtic Coastal Hearing are happy ears doing what they do best, hearing great.”