Becoming a Cochlear Implant Audiologist

Becoming a Cochlear Implant Audiologist

September 24, 2020 Interviews

The Becoming a _____ Audiologist series is a continuation of the “So You Want to Be a _____ Audiologist” Interview series and is dedicated to informing students of the vastness of audiology and how they can become the audiologist they never knew they wanted to be.

Dr. Shelly Ozdamar is a cochlear implant audiologist at the Ear Institute at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai in New York, New York.

Q: Give us a quick description of who you are, what your official title is, and where you are currently working.

A: My name is Shelly Ozdamar. I have been an audiologist for almost thirty years and have specialized in cochlear implants for twenty-eight years. I work at The Ear Institute at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai with patients of all ages; the Ear Institute is a comprehensive center for hearing, balance and communication disorders.

Q: Where did you receive your degrees?

A: I received my bachelor’s in communication sciences at Stockton University  and my master’s degree in Audiology at Hunter College-City University of New York (CUNY). I later went back to school to earn my Doctorate of Audiology at A.T. Still University.

Q: What made you want to become a cochlear implant audiologist?

A: I started off my education thinking I was going to be a speech-language pathologist. However, halfway through graduate school, I decided I wanted to go into audiology.  I also wanted to incorporate a rehabilitation aspect to my career and to work with patients long-term to follow their progress. I initially started off my audiological career with traditional diagnostic evaluations including complete audiological evaluations with pediatric as well as geriatric patients. I also performed Auditory Brainstem Responses (ABRs) and Electronystagmographys (ENGs) in addition to dispensing hearing aids. Shortly after I started my career, I was not satisfied with my daily routine, and I knew I needed more. 

Q: What do you do as a cochlear implant audiologist? Do you only work with cochlear implants?

A: In addition to working with cochlear implants, I perform complete audiological evaluations one day per week. I am part of a cochlear implant team including: pediatric audiologists, speech-language pathologists who specialize in aural rehabilitation, surgeons, and a social worker. I perform pre- and post-operative cochlear implant evaluations. Post evaluations are very important so that we can monitor how recipients are performing with their implant. The recipient’s auditory skills are a very important way for us to know that the cochlear implant is functioning.  In addition to evaluations, I program and work with the three FDA approved cochlear implant companies. Another reason I enjoy working with cochlear implant patients is that I develop a long-term ongoing relationship; their implants need to be monitored throughout their lifetime. I have patients I have worked with since they were babies who are now adults and starting their own families.

Q: What opportunities do you remember from your (under)graduate career that helped you solidify your interest in cochlear implants?

A: During graduate school, I volunteered at CUNY Graduate Center and worked with the audiology researchers looking at different areas of speech reception skills in cochlear implant users. I also had an internship at Center for Hearing and Communication and worked with the deaf and hard of hearing on improving speech reading abilities. That is when I knew I really wanted to work with this population.

Q: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were deciding to go into cochlear implants? Is there anything else you want to say or suggest to students considering specializing in cochlear implants?

A: While mentoring audiology students during their internships, I saw a big interest in working with cochlear implant patients. I must caution anyone who would like to solely become a cochlear implant audiologist; it is extremely difficult to find a center that focuses only on cochlear implants. I believe it is most important for new audiology doctoral students to be exposed to many different aspects of the profession before choosing or specializing in any one area. The biggest recommendation I have for anyone interested in cochlear implants is that they sharpen and strengthen their audiological skills as well as get exposed to programming and fitting hearing aids before they specialize. Those skills will allow them to be a better cochlear implant audiologist.   

This interview was completed by Adam Sulaiman, a second-year AuD student at the CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan, New York. Adam is a member of the Communications Committee and his interests in audiology include diagnostics and vestibular audiology.

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