Welcome to the SAA Becoming a ____ Audiologist Interview Series! There are many pathways or fields of audiology. In this series, the SAA will interview audiologists who work in varying fields of audiology.
Our next interview is with Patricia Mazzullo, AuD, an audiologist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
Dr. Mazzullo is also an adjunct professor at the CUNY Graduate Center.
Q: Give us a brief description of yourself, your pronouns, your official title, where you are currently working, etc.
A: My name is Dr. Patricia Mazzullo (she/her). I am an audiologist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. I am also an adjunct professor in the Doctor of Audiology (Aud) program at the CUNY Graduate Center. I serve as the Audiology Representative for the District of Columbia for ASHA’s Committee of Ambassadors.
Q: Where did you receive your Bachelors and AuD (or PhD)?
A: I received my bachelor’s degree from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and my AuD from the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City.
Q: What made you want to become a vestibular audiologist?
A: I really enjoy helping people, which is what drew me to the audiology profession originally. I enjoy specializing in vestibular assessment because it requires you to think critically. Every patient and case is different, and each one has different needs and goals. I see patients with dizziness due to a wide variety of causes such as viruses or infections, traumatic brain injury (TBI), blast exposure, etc. I like to help diagnose the cause of a patient’s dizziness to help them get on track to feeling better. It is also very rewarding to help those who serve or have served our country. I experience dizziness myself which helps me relate to my patients.
Q: What does your day entail as a vestibular audiologist?
A: My day entails seeing patients and performing hearing tests, comprehensive vestibular testing, hearing aid fittings/follow-ups, and tinnitus management. At my facility, we perform virtual telehealth appointments prior to the patient coming in for in-person vestibular testing where we can perform a thorough chart review, go over patient questionnaires, get a thorough case history, discern if in-person testing is necessary, and provide any other recommendations/referrals. I am privileged to work in a facility where I can decide what tests to perform based on the patient’s individual needs.
The vestibular testing I perform includes videonystagmography (VNG), rotational chair, video head impulse test (vHIT), cervical and ocular vestibular evoked myogenic potentials (cVEMPs and oVEMPs, respectively), subjective visual vertical (SVV) testing, and platform posturography. In addition, I perform Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) evaluations and treatment. A portion of my appointment is dedicated to counseling and answering questions.
Along with my clinic responsibilities, I am a preceptor; therefore, my day is also spent training and supervising fourth-year audiology externs. As a clinic, we have weekly academics meetings, and monthly time blocks to work on, or assist, with research projects.
Q: What classes or additional education would you suggest for students wanting to pursue becoming a vestibular audiologist?
A: I believe all programs should require at least one course on vestibular assessment. I would recommend seeking a fourth year placement in a facility that offers comprehensive vestibular testing. However, if you are unable to do that, do not be discouraged! I would also recommend attending vestibular-related lectures at conferences, and utilizing online vestibular courses such as those through AudiologyOnline; read research articles and try to stay current with updates in vestibular science.
Q: What opportunities do you remember from your educational career that helped you solidify your interest in vestibular audiology?
A: The more I learned about vestibular testing and treatment, the more I enjoyed it. Mentorship at a previous job really helped forge my interest in vestibular testing.
Q: What kind of clinical placements would you suggest to a student wanting to go into vestibular audiology?
A: If possible, I would recommend clinical placements in facilities with balance centers, or facilities that perform comprehensive vestibular testing (preferably offering more testing than just the VNG).
Q: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were deciding to go into vestibular audiology?
A: I wish I knew that I would want to specialize in vestibular testing sooner, preferably as a student.
Q: Is there anything else you want to say or suggest to students considering going into vestibular audiology?
A: I always tell students and new audiologists that it is imperative to understand what you are looking for. It is important that your goal is to understand the tests you are performing and the vestibular system at a deeper level. Do not just learn how to perform the tests. It is important to know when things do not make sense and when you need to re-adjust or ask for help. Be teachable. The field is always changing, and it is important to keep up with those changes.
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