When Patient Becomes Student Clinician—Finding My Way Through an AuD Program with Hearing Loss

During my second year of undergrad, I found myself questioning what I wanted to do with my life. I was unhappy with my current music therapy major, but anxious about changing it to CSD to become an audiologist. I was slowly falling out of love with music therapy, but still wanted to help people. Because of my hearing loss, I was familiar with the world of audiology. But, would it keep me from being a successful audiologist?

In reality, there are a lot of successful hard-of-hearing audiologists out there! Shortly after switching my major to CSD, I discovered that my audiology professor, Dr. Ben Russell, CCC-A, had hearing loss as well. I felt so lucky having someone I could look up while beginning my audiology journey. Working with him helped me realize becoming an audiologist was exactly what I was meant to do.

Take Advantage of Your Assets

One thing I’ve learned … success comes with a lot of hard work—regardless of whether or not you have hearing loss. But if you do have hearing loss, or a disability, there are things you can do to set yourself up for success:

Register with Your University’s Office of Disability Services

Most of my peers with hearing loss would agree that it’s not necessarily a disability but registering with your university’s office of disability services is a great idea! They’ll work with you to develop an Accommodation Plan that tells professors what they can do to help you succeed:

  • Posting PowerPoints before class
  • Including a notetaker
  • Allowing you to use a laptop for notes if it’s otherwise not allowed
  • Adding captions to videos

These accommodations are particularly handy in grad school, especially when classes are longer and there’s more information to take in. There’s also no shame in asking your professors to repeat themselves during a lecture. If you’re confused, chances are someone else is too. This tip goes for everyone!

Connect with Your Patients

Personally, I’m becoming an audiologist because I’m passionate about helping others like me!

And I bet a lot of you are the same. I’ve been repeatedly told by audiologists that one of the greatest assets of having a hearing loss is being able to personally connect with patients. One way I accomplish this in our clinic is by using an assistive listening device accessory and explaining to my patients that it helps me hear them while I’m testing their word recognition. Not only does this build rapport, but it shows them that I’m not afraid to use assistive technology, so they shouldn’t either.

Don’t Recreate the Wheel

Ask for help from others who’ve been there before. I turned to my hard-of-hearing peers a lot during my first semester of grad school to find out what worked and what didn’t in clinic.

At one point, I wanted to improve my word recognition scoring. My peers suggested I use my assistive listening device—doing so considerably decreased the amount of times I had to rely on my preceptor during testing. It also made me more independent during clinic. I also struggled with hearing aid listening checks. After talking to my school’s audiology assistant, she helped me order a custom listening check device.

In fact, I reached out to members of the Association of Audiologists with Hearing Loss Facebook group to get additional pieces of advice for this blog post. Special shout-out to them!

It’s important to realize that everyone is going to have a different experience in clinic. What works for others (normal hearing or not) may not work for you—and that’s perfectly okay.

Be Open to Constructive Criticism

Open yourself up to constructive criticism. I realized quickly that I may have a lot of experience in the world of audiology as a patient, but the opposite side of the sound booth is a lot different. I’m still working on finding my “audiologist voice.” And I’m still rehearsing test instructions … something a normal hearing student might find difficult too! I made a lot of assumptions about what my patients may know about audiology, and my instructor had to point out those bad habits to help me correct them.

Own It

Your hearing loss [or disability] can be a huge asset as a professional in the audiology and speech-language pathology fields. You have a lifetime of personal experience and know what it’s like to be in your patients’ shoes. Use that knowledge to help them!

Allow Yourself Success

Remember: Everyone has a different grad experience—and that’s okay! We each have challenges related to our own personal background. Part of finding your way is by figuring out what works for you (and what doesn’t) and allow yourself to be successful.

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