So You Want to Be an Animal Audiologist?

So You Want to Be an Animal Audiologist?

March 14, 2018 Interviews

Dr. Tina Stoody is an associate professor at the University of Northern Colorado. She received her bachelor’s degree from Binghamton University and her master’s degree from Washington University in Saint Louis. Dr. Stoody earned her PhD from the University of Memphis and her Graduate Certification in Animal Audiology from the University of Cincinnati. 

 

1. How did you become interested in the profession of audiology?
I always joke with my students and say I became an Audiologist by accident. I got my bachelor’s degree in Psychobiology at Binghamton University in NY. The degree was essentially a double major in Biology and Psychology. During my junior year, I tried to figure out what I wanted to do with my degree. A friend’s mom suggested Speech-Language Pathology, and that resonated with me as I had spent a few years working with an SLP when I was child with a tongue thrust. As a student without the prerequisite background in Communication Sciences, I was nervous about my chances of getting into graduate school and applied to several programs. A friend of mine was an undergraduate student at Washington University in St. Louis at the time and when I discussed my grad school applications with him, he got excited and said they had a program at his school and that he’d send me information. As it turned out, they did not have an SLP program – their programs were in Audiology and Deaf Education. My mother’s parents were both Deaf, so I had a close connection to hearing loss, but ironically I had no idea that the profession of audiology even existed. I was intrigued enough that I went ahead and applied to that one Audiology program on top of the other SLP program applications. When I got accepted into the Audiology program, I visited St. Louis to help me decide. It was late in the spring by the time I had the chance to make the trip out, and I had already accepted a spot at an SLP graduate program and had my plan of study in place. However, I still felt the need to look into this audiology program some more. When I visited, I fell in love with it, and I gave up the spot I had already accepted in that SLP graduate program, and never looked back. I love being an Audiologist.

2. What is animal audiology and how did you become involved with it?
Animal Audiology is exactly what it sounds like…. it’s the study of the assessment and management of hearing loss in animals. I am a faculty member at the University of Northern Colorado. My colleagues and I found out about the work that was being done at the University of Cincinnati and were really interested in getting involved. We wrote a grant that was funded through our University Provost’s office that allowed us that opportunity. Myself and two of my colleagues completed the coursework for the Graduate Certificate in Animal Audiology, started a FETCHLAB in partnership with the University of Cincinnati, and created a certificate program in animal audiology at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC). The animal audiology work is done in FETCHLAB, which actually stands for “Facility for Education and Testing of Canine Hearing & Laboratory for Animal Bioacoustics”. There are currently three FETCHLAB locations: ours, the original FETCHLAB at the University of Cincinnati, and a third at the University of Akron. Through FETCHLAB at UNC, we primarily work with canines and equines. We provide clinical services as well as pursue research projects. Several of our students have completed capstone research projects through FETCHLAB and we have a few more getting ready to start some new projects.

3. What do you currently do with your certification?
I teach courses and help train other audiologists and graduate students in the Animal Audiology Certificate Program. In our FETCHLAB, we work with breeders, pet owners, and canine rescue and service dog organizations to assess and manage hearing loss in animals. We are also getting ready to fit our first canine hearing aid. Canine testing happens at a local veterinarian office on Friday mornings. In addition to FETCHLAB Fridays, we attend local animal-related events to raise awareness about who we are and what we do.

4. What has been your coolest experience with testing animals?
We had an owner come in who had adopted a dog that they were thinking about giving up. They were worried that the dog might not be a good fit for their home due to behavior problems; they were worried about having the dog around their young child. The dog was a Dogo Argentino, a breed with a higher prevalence of hearing loss. They found out about FETCHLAB and decided to see if the dog’s behavior might be due to deafness. When we tested the dog, we learned that it had single sided deafness. Following the assessment, we provided the owner with support and information about unilateral hearing loss. With this knowledge and information, the owner ended up keeping the dog. It was so heartwarming.

5. What does testing consist of?
The testing is very similar to ABR testing done on infants for newborn hearing screening. To prep the animal, we rub some numbing cream in three different areas (where the electrodes will be placed). One main difference is that instead of surface electrodes, we use needle electrodes just below the surface of the skin. The needles are similar to acupuncture needles and do not hurt the animal. Insert transducers are placed in the ear to present the auditory stimuli. The response to the sound is measured by the electrodes as voltage changes and is displayed on the screen as a waveform. When testing an animal, the procedure is typically referred to as a BAER test (brainstem auditory evoked response). While the acronym is different, it is essentially the same as an ABR. The waveform morphology is different than the human response due to some differences in anatomy/physiology between a canine and a human. However, the analysis is the same – we look for repeatable waves at a specific latency. Testing puppies is a really nice way for students who may not get a lot of opportunities to perform ABRs on infants to get some extra electrophysiology experience!

6. How can interested students become involved with learning about animal testing?
Currently, the Graduate Certificate in Animal Audiology is offered at both the University of Northern Colorado and the University of Cincinnati. Both programs are the same number of credits and include coursework and clinical/practicum experience. AuD students (and practicing Audiologists) are eligible to apply for either program. The coursework can be completed 100% online, but out of town/out of state students will need to make travel arrangements to obtain hands on training and complete practicum experiences. More information can be obtained about the UNC program, and the UC program. We also have a presence on social media, so feel free to like us on Facebook!

7. Any advice for students going into the profession of audiology?
Graduate school can be really competitive and stressful. No matter what program you are a part of, you will get out of graduate school what you put into it. Never be satisfied with doing the bare minimum. If there are extra learning opportunities available to you, jump on them! Stop trying to know what’s going to be important enough to be on the test. It’s all important. Audiology is a healthcare profession where the goal is to help people improve the quality of their lives. Try to remember that every day in the clinic and in the classroom. In five or ten years, your patient is not going to care what grade you got on XYZ exam, but they are going to want to feel confident that you are a professional that is highly comprehensive, compassionate, and knowledgeable, and ultimately that you are providing them with high quality care. Go out there and strive to be that professional.

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