October is Audiology Awareness Month and National Protect Your Hearing Month, providing an opportunity to highlight the important work of audiologists.
According to the American Academy of Audiology, more than 36 million American adults have some degree of hearing loss and over half of them are younger than age 65.1 Audiologists are trained healthcare professionals who evaluate and rehabilitate people with hearing loss, and are a trusted resource as people navigate hearing issues and related treatments. In honor of Audiology Awareness Month, we’re profiling an audiologist whose passion for her profession inspires her work and her volunteerism.
Cochlear Audiologist Gives Back
Many Cochlear employees are also audiologists, who are dedicated to giving back to their communities and improving hearing health. Sarah Almquist, who has an Au.D. (doctor of audiology) and is also a Cochlear Associate Clinical Territory Manager, recently attended the Minnesota State Fair to conduct hearing screenings as a volunteer with the Michigan Academy of Audiology.
Attendance at the State Fair reached record levels, and many people stopped by the booth for a hearing screening. “We screened about 60 people in three and a half hours,” Sarah said.
Hearing Health Education
Sarah had many impactful conversations as people received a hearing screening. “We had a counseling area to help people take action, told them where to find an audiologist, and encouraged them to get a baseline test to identify if and when hearing loss progresses.” They also provided education about hearing conservation and stories about temporary threshold shift (TTS). A temporary threshold shift occurs when someone is exposed to very loud noise. A good example of this would be a loud concert, or perhaps fireworks or firearms. The person will experience a change in hearing for a period of time – maybe a few hours or a day. Sometimes they will have loud ringing in their ear(s) for a period of time. Their hearing will usually return to normal in time, however, it is important to know that this TTS has, in fact, damaged their organ of hearing, the cochlea. We call this hidden hearing loss because it doesn’t show up on their audiogram often times for many years, but the damage has been done and it can’t be reversed. For long-term hearing health, it is very important to avoid TTS’s.
A Passion for Service
As a parent of a child who had health complications growing up, Sarah learned the importance of every interaction as families face challenging health situations. She wanted to be a person who made a difference for others, and went back to school at age 44 to get an undergraduate degree in speech language hearing sciences.
“I took an anatomy and physiology class and saw the inner workings of the ear and knew I had found it! I loved ears.”
Sarah then went on to receive a master’s degree and a doctorate in audiology.
“The people at Cochlear live by our mission every day: to help people hear and be heard. It’s our culture. We put people first, caring for them throughout their hearing journey.”
Hearing and Listening
Attendees at the state fair hearing screenings would agree. Couples encouraged each other to have their hearing screened, and others who had been worried about hearing issues for a long time were finally able to get a professional opinion. Teens were even interested because the screening included getting a good look at the inside of their ears using a video otoscope. They could see whether their ear drum was healthy, and most could even see the tiny ossicles, or little bones, behind their ear drum. Understanding how fragile this hearing system is helped reinforce the need to take good care of it.
Sarah recalled one woman who had a lot of anxiety as she went in the booth for the screening. The woman whispered to Sarah that she was a breast cancer survivor and was afraid that the treatments had affected her hearing. Sarah shared that she too was a breast cancer survivor and understood. As the woman was able to release her fears with tears, Sarah reminded her that she was taking good care of herself now and, like Sarah, living her life to the fullest. Sarah noted that this was her “why.” She loves helping people hear and be heard, and feel empowered – just as Cochlear’s mission statement exemplifies.
Thank you to all of the audiologists out there for your critical role in hearing health! If you or someone you know could benefit from a screening, visit Cochlear’s Contact a Hearing Specialist website to find an audiologist near you.