Addressing Hearing Loss Beyond the Clinic
It’s football Saturday, a home game for the Buckeyes. You're sitting in the Ohio Stadium, listening to TBDBITL. Thousands of people are chattering around you — some still in their seats, while others are coming and going. It’s hard enough to hear above all that clatter. Now, imagine trying to do so with a significant hearing impairment.
That’s just one of the challenges tackled by clinicians and students from Ohio State’s Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic along with a group of persons with hearing impairments during a three-day workshop in July. The Specialized Intensive Audiologic Revitalization Conference (SIARC) provided a unique opportunity for adults with hearing loss, and their communication partners, to experience the benefits of cooperative learning and assistive technology in a social environment with Ohio State clinicians and students.
The brainchild of Linda Thibodeau, professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, SIARC has been implemented in only a handful of states. Ohio State’s Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic is the first in Ohio to introduce SIARC into the curriculum.
“The typical experience for our clients involves a series of visits at the clinic, and may or may not include the client’s communication partner or significant support person,” said Jodi Baxter, audiologist and clinical assistant professor at the clinic. “SIARC takes all of this out of a clinical setting and allows our clinicians and graduate students to introduce clients and their families to new digital hearing aids and assistive listening device technology and try them in a variety of settings.”
For three days, clinicians, students, clients and their communication partners learned about communications strategies, grappled with the psychological aspects of hearing loss and visited restaurants and Ohio Stadium for extensive trial and practice working with various hearing devices — all with the aim of maximizing hearing and communication.
Susan and her husband AJ were among those who attended the conference. Susan is hearing impaired; AJ is not. Susan has been wearing hearing aids for 10 years and hoped to learn about ways to improve and accommodate her hearing loss.
“This conference was just what I needed,” said Susan. “Working with the students has been invaluable. They are enthusiastic, they’re smart and you have a one-on-one relationship with them over the course of the conference.”
For graduate students, the opportunity to forge relationships with clients and their families while training in the use of new technologies was critical to preparing them for the practice of audiology. Brittney Carter, a fourth-year graduate student working toward a dual doctorate in audiology, was excited to be part of the inaugural conference.
“My dream job is to be both a professor at a research university and a clinical professor,” said Carter. “To be able to observe firsthand the consequences of hearing loss for a family and to then work with family members, putting different technologies to the test was really important to me.”
Baxter notes that the significance of Ohio State’s clinic taking the lead on bringing SIARC to Ohio goes beyond the impact on students and clients.
“This unique program allows family and support persons to experience firsthand the daily challenges faced by an individual with a hearing loss,” said Baxter. “By involving loved ones, colleagues, friends, future audiologists and the community, we’re working to make our community more inclusive for all.”
Additional Ohio State faculty, clinicians and staff participating in the conference included Christina Roup, associate professor, speech and hearing science; Gail Whitelaw, clinic director; Christy Goodman, audiology clinical supervisor; and Julie Hazelbaker, audiology program coordinator.