Generally, Audiologists start their academic training in an undergraduate program that is geared primarily to Speech-Language Pathology. And while there are definitely similarities, there are definitely ways in which the two fields are very different.
For me, one if the biggest differences is the relationship we develop with our patients.
A speech-Language Pathologist may see the same person as many as 2 or 3 times per week for a period of time, sometimes a few months, sometimes a year. An Audiologist will see a patient a few times in the first few months, and then randomly across possibly a very long period of time.
For example, I have now lived and worked in the same general area for 24 years. I have a few patients that I have seen on and off for 24 years! I can think of one young lady, she was a shy 4 year-old little girl when we first diagnosed her hearing loss and fit her with hearing aids. She is now a mature, accomplished young woman in her early twenties. It has been such a pleasure to see her grow, learn of her dreams, aspirations, and her accomplishments. A recent college graduate, she is off to a wonderful start in her career. I have other patients as well. Adults who have seen me for years. I have one patient who makes it a point to tell me a joke every visit. I have one patient who makes it a point to tell me a joke every visit. There are other patients that perhaps have had multiple sets of hearing aids, or maybe they came first with a parent or friend, and now they need hearing aids. Sometimes a patient is referred by a friend who I fit with hearing aids previously. When you see people over a period of years like this, even though you don’t see them all the time, it is a little bit like catching up with old friends. They ask how you are doing, they ask about your family. They comment on changes in appearance, they commiserate with losses and share their own so you can commiserate with them, you share tears, fears, and their joys too. I’ve attended a few funerals. Those are sad occasions. Some patients or family members bring gifts of vegetables from their garden, a little hand-made token of appreciation, or even a tiny box of candy, just because you were kind and took your time to talk with them or a loved one. Sometimes, I think some of my elderly patients appreciate the conversation time more than anything. They may live alone at home with little human interaction. Coming to the office brings them some joy. I’ve had a few patients ask me, “you aren’t planning on moving or retiring any time soon are you?” They are worried that they will have to find a new Audiologist. Sometimes, you almost become a part of the family. Not with everyone mind you, but some patients become very special.
I’ve come to really appreciate some of the relationships I’ve acquired over the years. The Human Connection, there’s nothing better. And that is one of the reasons why I love being an Audiologist.