Student Starts National Group for Aspiring Audiologists with Hearing Loss

A UT Dallas audiology student has started a national group to support students with hearing loss who are in audiology programs or hope to be.

Audrey Taylor in her office

An American Academy of Audiology meeting encouraged graduate student Audrey Taylor to establish a group for deaf and hard-of-hearing audiology students. 

Audrey Taylor, a third-year audiology graduate student in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, came up with the idea at a national conference of the American Academy of Audiology (AAA). While there, she participated in a meeting for deaf and hard-of-hearing audiologists. Surprisingly, 30 out of the 35 attendees were students.

“It was an eye-opening experience to see how many other students with hearing loss are entering into the field of audiology,” she said. “Even though all of us had hearing loss, we were all very different from each other.”

Taylor, who wears hearing aids, was diagnosed with hearing loss when she was 4 years old. She said that early on she didn’t like to talk about her hearing loss, but she was determined it would not stop her from achieving her goals.

She attended Baylor University as an undergraduate student, majoring in business, because she thought it would be difficult for her to become an audiologist. But after talking with her audiologist and others, Taylor switched her major and focused on audiology.

“Sometimes people think that hearing loss defines them, and it doesn’t. It is a part of you but it is not your identity,” she said. “There’s so much more to people than just what people might perceive as limitations.”

Sometimes people think that hearing loss defines them, and it doesn’t. It is a part of you but it is not your identity. There’s so much more to people than just what people might perceive as limitations.

Audrey Taylor, third-year audiology graduate student

The meeting at the AAA convention led Taylor and another student, Kelsey Roy, from the University of North Carolina, to reach out to the national Student Academy of Audiology (SAA) for support in starting a permanent subcommittee. Last summer, the SAA board of directors approved the idea, and the Students with Hearing Loss Subcommittee was established.

The goals of the group are to provide students with hearing loss an outlet to openly discuss the unique challenges they may face in their local academic and clinical environments, and help them acquire strategies on how to best advocate for themselves as students and soon-to-be professionals.

Self-advocacy is an important message that Taylor hopes other students will take from the group, which recently held its first meeting at AAA's annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee. She said it’s important for students to take steps that can help them overcome potential difficulties.

“One of the things we emphasize is getting registered with your school’s disability office as soon as you can, and making sure that you’re properly documented with accommodation letters, if needed,” she said. “Whenever I meet someone for the first time, whether it be in clinic or in class, I tell them that I have hearing loss and ask them to look at me whenever they’re talking. I also ask for subtitles and captioning.”

The UT Dallas audiology program, based at the Callier Center for Communication Disorders, is ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the fourth best audiology program in the country.

Taylor soon will begin her externship, a fourth-year off-campus placement where she will work with audiologists and patients. She is looking forward to working with children who have hearing loss.

“I love working in pediatrics. I don’t just see the children as patients — I see them as kids and as someone that I once was,” she said. “One of my favorite things to ask children is, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ You get a myriad of different answers, but some of them will even actually say, ‘I want to be an audiologist just like you.’

“It’s so encouraging to see that they don’t necessarily perceive hearing loss as a limitation to what they want to do, and I just want to encourage them to perceive whatever their goals might be and to just chase after those goals wholeheartedly.”

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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