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Founding Father of Audiology Australia Celebrates 90th Birthday

Feb 8, 2024

By Marshall Smither and Susan Forster

Laurie UpfoldOne of the founding parents of our profession in Australia, Dr Laurence ‘Laurie’ John Upfold, celebrated his 90th birthday on 5th February 2024.  

Happy Birthday Laurie!  Dr Laurence J Upfold is highly respected as a key figure in the development of the audiology profession in Australia.

Today Laurie and his Partner Beth enjoy the life of beautiful Narrabeen on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. His interests include travel, Australian Test Cricket, and classic Jazz. He has one of the world’s most extensive collections of Kenneth Grahame’s book The Wind in the Willows.

Career History

26 April 1960

Laurie was appointed to a position as a psychologist with the then Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories (CAL) in Sydney. (Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories, later National Acoustic Laboratories, Australian Hearing Services, Australian Hearing, now Hearing Australia.) CAL employed psychologists to be trained in audiology ‘on the job’ because there were no university courses in the audiology in Australia at the time. After initial training by Dr Brian Harold (PhD in Audiology at Manchester University) and later by CAL Chief Psychologist, Dr Roland Farrant (PHD Northwestern University USA) Laurie became one of the first audiologists in Australia, a pioneer in the field.

1962

Promoted to a Psychologist Class 2 position in CAL Brisbane

1964-1971

Psychologist in Charge CAL Brisbane

1971-1989

Principal Psychologist/Audiologist National Acoustic Laboratories

1989-2012

Audiologist Private Practice

Achievements:

Management of Children affected by Maternal Rubella

In Spring 1963, a year after Laurie took charge of CAL Brisbane there was a rubella outbreak in Qld resulting in many children born being born in 1964 with hearing loss, many also having heart and/or visual defects. About 130 children were diagnosed as hearing impaired due to maternal rubella but many more with hearing impairments of unknown cause were probably also affected by rubella during their mothers’ early pregnancy.

CAL was responsible for fitting hearing aids to children with impaired hearing. In addition, CAL Brisbane was the only centre in Queensland with the expertise and facilities to assess babies and young children. Hence all Queensland children likely to need hearing aids were seen at CAL Brisbane.

Laurie’s management of these children was particularly important because it demonstrated that it was possible to assess the hearing of babies and to initiate early hearing aid fitting.

This experience of the effects of maternal rubella not only led to a continuing interest in the subject but sparked Laurie’s lifelong passion for research.

The first of Laurie’s publications. Deafness Following Rubella in Pregnancy, Medical Journal of Australia 1 February 1970 was the first of many of Laurie’s publications.

Laurie maintained an unwavering devotion to audiology and continued to inspire many others who also became prominent in the field.

Founding Member of The Audiological Society of Australia

Laurie promoted the establishment of a professional Society for audiologists and was a founding member of The Audiological Society of Australia (Now Audiology Australia) established in 1968.

Promoted Professional Education

In his role as Principal Audiologist in NAL Laurie strongly encouraged Universities in Queensland Victoria and New South Wales to commence post graduate studies in Audiology. He was able to assure the academic administration of the Universities that positions would be available for graduates in the expanding network of NAL hearing centres. His work in establishing professional standards and time/service  requirements in NAL made it possible to predict with accuracy the staffing needs of his organisation.

Promoted Research

Laurie has been a frequent presenter at Audiology Australia Conferences and has had several research papers published.

He has also constantly encouraged others to be alert to the opportunities to utilise data from their clinical work for research which then may be disseminated to a wider audience.

Established The Laurie Upfold Young Presenters Award

As an incentive to encourage research in the audiology field, Laurie established The Laurie Upfold Young Presenters Award which continues to be awarded at every Audiology Australia National Conference, won last year by Marcus Voola.

Author: A History of Australian Audiology, 2008

Laurie’s book, the basis of his PhD, is the only comprehensive recorded reference to the history of audiology in Australia.

Audiology Australia Awards

Appointed Fellow and Life Member.

 

Happy Birthday Laurie. And best wishes and thanks for your life’s work on behalf of generations of Australian Audiologists and their clients.  

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