So You Want to Be a Private Practice Audiologist?
Susan Rardin, MA, is the founder and owner of Hear Here LLC, based out of Indianapolis, Indiana. She received her undergraduate degree in Speech and Hearing Sciences and Masters in Audiology from Indiana University-Bloomington. She has 27 years of audiology experience, including 20 years with a practicing ear, nose, and throat specialist. She is a board member and the audiology consultant for Katie’s Hear to Help Foundation. She is also a proud member of the American Academy of Audiology (AAA).
1. At what point did you realize you wanted to study audiology?
I became interested in Speech and Hearing while I was an elementary education major. I enjoyed working with children in small groups and one-on-one, and a degree in Speech and Hearing would allow me to help both children and adults. At Indiana University, the Bachelor's degree for Speech and Audiology were the same core curriculum. I really enjoyed my audiology classes much more than my speech classes, so when I went into grad school, I switched to audiology.
2. What is your “Audiology Why”? What drives you to come into work every day?
Audiology gives us the ability to instantly help someone regain their connection with their friends and family. It can be very emotional to see the newly-fitted patient be able to communicate and participate in life effectively again.
3. What has been your biggest struggle with opening your own private practice?
The biggest struggle was having to assume responsibility for all aspects of the practice. Before I opened my own practice, I worked in an ENT office. My only duties were patient-related (testing, fitting, etc.). I never had to handle bookkeeping or marketing.
4. How are you able to compete against the big box stores?
I think the big box stores have affected my practice somewhat. I know that price is the bottom line for a lot of patients, not quality of care. I am sure that there are some big box stores with audiologists staffing them. I think the challenge is trying to get a patient to recognize the difference between being a number, versus having a long-term relationship with YOUR personal audiologist. I am more interested in developing a relationship with that patient than "making that one sale."
5. Are you nervous for the over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aid movement? How do you think that it will affect people working in private practice?
I am nervous about OTC. I do think it will affect my practice because patients with mild hearing losses will likely "start" the hearing aid process there. OTC devices may work for some patients, but not others. My concern is that new patients are going to get the "wrong" impression about hearing aids. Especially if they are dealing with issues like occlusion. I worry that it will prevent patients from seeking a professional alternative where they would be much more likely to be successful.
6. What interprofessional teamwork roles do you play?
I don't really have a lot of interprofessional interactions. I market to doctors in my area and will send them a report regarding their patient's results, or occasionally I will interact with a nurse or nurse's aid in a nursing facility.
7. Any advice for students interested in becoming private practice audiologists?
There are advantages and disadvantages in private practice. If you choose private practice you will have to be involved in all aspects of the business. You are no longer just a clinical audiologist, you are now a business person. I think that you need to be a self-starter. You definitely need the right personality for private practice. As our marketplace changes, I believe that private practice, as well as all types of settings, will face new challenges. I do not know how big box stores and OTC's will affect our industry. We will all be learning and navigating this together.
Alyson Ruotanen is currently a third year audiology student from the University of Cincinnati. She is interested in working with the geriatric population in any type of setting. In her free time, she likes to run in races, play soccer, and explore new places.