Audiologist – All my friends and family know that I have a job in the health field, however when they ask me “Now what is it that you do?” I answer “I’m an Audiologist.” Typically, this is followed by a blank stare and an awkward moment of silence. I can see the wheels turning, trying to dig deep into their lexicon (mental ‘dictionary’) to determine what on earth this word “Audiologist” means. I can only imagine that they are thinking “you’ve answered my question, but I still have no idea what you do.” I have been answering this question long enough to know that it is best I just keep talking, and explain to them what it is that an Audiologist does. This is usually followed by my brief explanation of “ears, hearing, and balance.” Since this profession comprises of much more than my brief response, I thought it only necessary that my first entry on this Blog introduce you to myself and my colleagues here at Midwest ENT Centre, my place of practice, and begin to explain what it is that we, as Audiologists, do in our careers.
My name is Katie Rapp, born and raised in the wonderful city of St. Louis, Missouri. I graduated from a local high school, and completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Missouri – Columbia, otherwise known as MIZZOU. Go Tigers! Enjoying independence and learning a great deal about life, I quickly discovered the field of Communication Science and Disorders. “Huh?” That’s the response I got from most when I shared the title of my major of choice. No, it is not part of the business school, but rather part of the health professions. It is the study of human communication and the disorders that accompany this area of study. Most of my courses were centered on speech, human communication, and psychology. Why psychology? We need to learn a lot about human perception in order to properly understand all the inner workings of human communication – it’s more complicated than one would imagine! Humans morph into these incredible, miraculous creatures when you begin to study what sets us apart from other species on this earth – I digress. This is a discussion for another day. When I took my first course on Hearing, I was immediately intrigued. I must learn more! In 2008 I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Communication Science and Disorders, with a minor in Psychology. This is also where I learned American Sign Language (ASL), not a requirement of the degree, but definitely helpful when interacting with the deaf/Deaf community. Yes, there is a difference between deaf and Deaf, but again, a discussion for another day. After graduation I began my graduate studies at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, a 4-year doctoral program. This is where I learned all I needed to know, and then some, about becoming an Audiologist, graduating with my Doctorate of Audiology in May 2012. I began my professional career here at Midwest ENT Centre in St. Peters in June 2012, and couldn’t be happier to work with such a great group of Audiologists and physicians.
My supervisor’s name is Trisha Hackman. An Indiana native, Trisha moved around the Midwest with her family until settling in Lake St. Louis after high school. Now, it may seem that I followed in her footsteps, but I promise I didn’t meet her until after my studies were complete! Apparently, a good path to success, she too completed her Bachelor’s degree in Communication Science and Disorders at good ol’ MIZZOU in 1989, and completed her Master’s degree at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine in 1991. In 2008, as the field of Audiology progressed, she earned a Doctorate degree in Audiology from Salus University. She has spent the last 18 years enjoying her career working with Ear Nose & Throat (ENT) physicians.
Fellow Audiologist, Kris Vernon, is originally from Illinois. She obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 2002. She continued on to earn her Master’s degree in Audiology from Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine in 2004. She too sought her Doctoral degree as the field of Audiology advanced, graduating from A.T. Still University of Health Sciences in Arizona in 2011. She has been a great asset to the Audiology team at Midwest ENT Centre since 2007.
Last but certainly not least, Sandi Fontecchio hails from Memphis, Tennessee where she developed an interest in Audiology during her high school years. After graduating Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders in 2003 from Saint Louis University, she moved to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to obtain her Doctoral degree in Audiology at Nova Southeastern University. During that time, Sandi spent invaluable time at the Shea Ear Clinic in Memphis, Tennessee completing her externship year of her education. She graduated with honors in 2008. After graduation, Sandi moved back to the St. Louis area to begin her exciting career at Midwest ENT Centre.
Now that you’ve been introduced to our wonderful team of Audiologist’s, lets learn more about why we are here, and what we actually do.
Audiology is an area of science that studies hearing, balance, and the related disorders across the lifespan – everything from newborn hearing screenings to geriatrics. Hearing AND balance? How are these related? Well, your balance mechanism is housed in your inner ear – what do Audiologists study? For simplicity sake, the ear. We will get into more detail about this in later discussions, but for right now, take my word for it, Audiologists are the professionals who test, help diagnose, and treat various balance disorders. The hearing mechanism and pathway in humans is complicated – I promise we will get into details in later discussions of anatomy and physiology – for the time being, let’s start with a non-exhaustive list of services that Audiologists provide to patients who seek help:
- Hearing/Auditory Diagnostics – do I have a hearing loss? If so, what kind, and what can I do?
- Treatment of Hearing Loss – am I a candidate for hearing aids? Cochlear Implants? Baha? Medical treatment? What are these things? That’s right, to be discussed later.
- Vestibular/Balance Diagnostics – why am I dizzy?
- Tinnitus Treatment – what is this ringing in my ears? What do I do?
If you find yourself wondering about any of these things, you might want to seek a licensed Audiologist who can help get started on answering these questions. We are here for you! Our job is to educate you on your hearing/balance health, and to help remedy these issues if they present a burden on your life. We cannot “cure” you – if your situation is medically treatable, that is the role of the ENT physicians and surgeons here. But the Audiologists are here to help navigate you to the appropriate place. If not medically treatable, you’re not out of luck! We strive to educate you about your options, and help find the appropriate course of action for you and your lifestyle.
I hope I have successfully explained the top layer of what an Audiologist is, and what we do. Any questions, please do not hesitate to leave a comment or question below, or contact your local licensed Audiologist. If you only take away one thing from reading this entry, let it be “We are here for YOU!” Please do not hesitate to call us at 636-441-3100 or email any of us directly at our corresponding email addresses on our website, www.mid-westent.com. We entered this field to help people – nobody expects you to be an expert – that is our job! Thanks for reading!
“More people spend more time and energy going around their problems than trying to solve them.” Henry Ford