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The Au.D. - Why I Earned It, and What It's Done For Me

The Au.D. - Why I Earned It, and What It's Done For Me
Steven D. Sederholm
June 15, 2000

On May 6, 2000 I ended what for me was a 12 year journey in pursuit of the doctoral title. Since the 1988 Academy of Dispensing Audiologists (ADA) convention, I have anxiously awaited the day my colleagues and I would earn and be recognized as doctoral level practitioners.

The advances in our profession have been significant over the last decade. When I earned my master's degree, audiology was not what it is today.

Back then, most clinicians were not familiar with MLRs, P300s and MMNs. Otoacoustic Emissions were only discussed in scientific journals-who knew OAEs would become the valuable diagnostic test used commonly today? A few years ago, only a handful of patients used cochlear implants, and those were mostly single-channel devices. Hearing aids were mostly linear peak-clippers, not the fully digital, multiple memory/multiple microphone instruments of today.

The audiologists' scope of practice has also expanded significantly. Who would have thought a decade ago, that audiologists would be practicing cerumen management, canalith repositioning, vestibular rehabilitation, intraoperative monitoring, comprehensive noise conservation programs and tinnitus/hyperacusis management and on and on.

It has become apparent to me that despite our efforts to attend as many continuing education activities as possible, it is simply not possible to keep up with the ever-expanding technology and knowledge of our rapidly-growing profession.

In addition, I do not believe it is feasible to expect our universities to prepare a competent clinician in today's healthcare climate with only a two year (or less) master's degree.

For me personally, the decision to apply to the University of Florida Au.D. program was an easy one. I had earned my master's there and I was familiar with most of the faculty. The cost was reasonable and it allowed me to continue working in my busy private practice while attending school simultaneously.

What I later came to value most about the UF program was there was little, if any opportunity to ''test out'' of certain courses/assignments/projects. While some may disagree, I think this restriction is a good thing. A common quote from my fellow classmates was ''I didn't know how much I didn't know!'' Now, I have to tell you, my colleagues were no dummies (in fact, I was at times intimidated by all their knowledge). These were well-rounded, competent clinicians. Even those who specialized were amazed by all the new information in their own area of specialty!

Since I started graduate school in 1986, I have ''specialized'' in hearing aid technology. I have a vested interest in this area of audiology as I was born with a severe hearing loss and have worn hearing aids for the past 35 years. I have tried my best to attend every continuing education class related to hearing aids (and adult audiologic rehabilitation). I have dabbled in pre-wired faceplates, made my own hearing aids and I was sure there was no way I would learn anything new in the UF hearing aids class. Boy was I wrong!

The reason for this is simple. The UF Au.D. program bombards you with information from every direction. Recognized ''experts'' in the field give intensive class lectures through videotapes. In addition to the many readings, on-line classes are held (at least) weekly with the course instructor, other experts and your regional facilitator. It is your facilitator who evaluates your skills, course knowledge, and class projects in person.

I, for one, am glad I was not afforded the opportunity to ''test out'' of any aspect of the program. Had I had the opportunity, I probably would have ''tested out'' and I would have cheated myself out of so much valuable information.

To illustrate what the Au.D. has done for me (and my practice), let me spend a moment addressing my two favorite courses; counseling and audiologic rehabilitation.

We all think we're great counselors. As audiologists, we spend a great
deal of time counseling our patients, perhaps more so than any other health care professionals. With all our experience, what could we possibly learn about counseling? A lot.

In the counseling class, not only was I able to learn about formal counseling tools and strategies, but more importantly -- I learned to improve my LISTENING skills. As a master's level audiologist, I tended to talk TO my patients far too much, and neglected the responsibility to hear my patients' needs. The days of simply explaining the audiogram to the patient are long gone. We must be more sensitive to our patients' needs and allow them to talk more. After all, we were given two ears and one mouth, therefore, we should be expected to listen twice as much as we speak. Sometimes instead of ''lecturing'' to our patients, we should simply ask them, ''So what would you like to talk about now?''

I enjoy employing my new counseling skills and my newfound ability to listen everyday in my clinical practice. I'm able to record case histories better (thanks in part to all the disorders I learned of in my medical audiology class) and I'm able to choose appropriate intervention strategies with greater accuracy and I now provide better patient follow-up.

My practice has become more successful too. In 1988, the year I began the Au.D. program, my hearing aid return rate was 18%. In 1999, it dropped to 7%. So far this year, it hovers at 3%. My gross sales and personal income are up too. Over the past year and a half, both are more than double and almost triple my pre-Au.D. years!

In the audiologic rehabilitation class, we were assigned a project to compile a resource notebook for our own practices. This turned out to be a mass effort by all students to produce the most comprehensive patient resource manual of all time! It contains financial resources, government resources, corporate resources, special equipment resources, educational resources, community resources and more.

While I first cursed (under my breath!) the instructor for assigning such a time-consuming project, I now consider it the most worthwhile project of the program. I value my resource manual as much as any piece of equipment in my office.

For those of you still ''waffling'' over your decision to pursue the Au.D., I strongly encourage you to get it now! The Au.D. will elevate audiology to the autonomous profession we envision. Additionally, it will greatly improve your ability to interact with, diagnose, manage and help your patients. But most importantly, do it for yourself; it will be the best decision you will make in your professional career!

Sennheiser Hearing - June 2024

Steven D. Sederholm

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