Science of Healing

LU observes Audiology Awarness Month through education

In 2008, the American Academy of Audiology declared October Audiology Awareness Month in order to promote hearing protection and an increased understanding of audiology as a profession.

Audiology is the study of hearing which combines medicine and technology to help those who have lost their hearing, are hearing impaired, or have other disorders which affect hearing.

Lilian Felipe, LU professor of the audiology doctoral program, said that audiology is more than just a profession — it’s about improving people’s quality of life.

“Audiology is the way that we understand how to communicate with people who suffer from hearing loss,” she said. “Hearing loss is the third most common health issue in the U.S. and because it’s gradual, some people don’t realize how important their hearing is and so it usually takes them seven to 10 years to discover they have hearing loss.”

Felipe said that audiology is more than just fitting people for hearing aids.

“We diagnose balance disorders and work closely with the elderly and we give people methods to prevent hearing loss,” she said.

There is constant research happening in the clinic in the speech and hearing building, and students and faculty alike are addressing hearing issues affecting people on campus, Felipe said.

“We study the hearing of kids in the marching band,” she said. “We monitor their hearing to see how the close range of loud instruments impacts hearing over time.”

Caitlin Robinson, LU doctorate of audiology student, said that Lamar’s audiology department stands out because they provide hands-on training for future clinicians.

“I was driven by my admiration to help others,” she said. “I found this field because I was inspired by an undergraduate audiology professor. Awareness in our field is important for those who do not know who can provide services for those with hearing impairments.”

Audiology awareness alerts people about the effects of untreated hearing problems, Felipe said.

In multiple studies, untreated hearing loss has been linked to higher rates of depression, as well as anger, frustration and social isolation, according to Healthy Hearing. Other studies have shown that those with untreated hearing loss have a higher risk of dementia and cognitive decline.

“As we get older, we experience hearing loss, however, the noise exposure from portable music devices is putting millions of people at risk for premature hearing loss,” Felipe said. “The higher the volume of the music, and the longer the time you listen to it, the more damage your hearing receives.”

Felipe said that there are ways to protect one’s hearing, and that’s why Audiology Awareness Month is so important.

“The three main ways to protect hearing are by turning music down, wearing ear protection and walking away from music that is too loud,” she said. “It’s important that people are aware of the potential consequences.”

Robinson said that audiology is a small, but growing field that she is proud to be a part of.

“The clinical applications of audiology and the many benefits of hearing conservation, protection, and treatment are somewhat novel to many people,” she said. “It is our job, as professionals, to instill a sense of comfort and acceptance for those who struggle in silence and wish to seek treatment.”

Felipe said that the audiology department is working on new opportunities for its students, such as planning a study abroad trip to Brazil to study gerontology, the study of the process of aging.

“Because we have professors from all over the world, we are able to provide different outlooks and integrate them,” she said. “We want to work together to make this field better, and here at Lamar there is so much high-tech equipment for our students to work with which prepares them better for the profession.”

The opportunity to improve one’s quality of life is the main reason Felipe chose audiology, she said.

“It’s like a part of life is coming back to them,” she said. “That’s worth so much. When I started to research more and saw the results of the studies I was doing, I saw that people felt as though they were constantly being judged because they had imbalance and were disoriented and looked drunk. Their families couldn’t understand or communicate with them, and they don’t have to live like that.”

For more information visit www.lamar.edu/speech-and-hearing-sciences or call 880-8338.

Story by Olivia Malick, UP managing editor

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