Outreach Opportunity Takes Audiology Students to Guatemala


“Refreshing,” said Benjamin Thompson ’18. “Incredible,” said Eun “Rudi” Kim ’18. “Joyful,” said Susanna Marshall ’18. The experience of providing hearing health care to patients in rural Guatemala impacted each of the three doctor of audiology students in a unique way. Pacific’s audiology program partnered with Entheos Audiology Cooperative to send a team of 30 volunteers, including audiologists and audiology students, to Panajachel, Guatemala.

“It’s my first time in Guatemala and I didn’t really know what to expect,” Kim said. “So, I came here with an open mind. It’s a beautiful country and people are so receptive. I just feel really grateful to be here; to be part of this team.”

Marshall also expressed gratitude at having the opportunity to work with this team. She elaborates, “Every single one of the audiologists on this trip are amazing. Each one of them brings different skills and different knowledge. They are all incredible teachers as well. […] It was an honor to be able to work with them as a student; to be given that opportunity.”

Entheos is committed to taking hearing health care to patients who otherwise would not have access to these services. Their international outreach has included sending teams of volunteers to Haiti, Jordan and Zambia. Marshall shares, “For some of the individuals we helped, some of the children for example, we gave them the chance to learn spoken language that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. The joy on their faces was really obvious. Even though there is a language barrier, to see them smile when they could hear with the hearing aids, that says it all and there are no words needed for that.” Thompson adds, “There’s a lot to smile about.”

For Thompson, the trip reinforced that there is a marriage of art and science in the profession of audiology. He explains, “There is a science of what we do and there is an art of what we do. Each professional brings their own artistic perspective and way that they approach communication or a hearing aid fitting. They all reach very similar end goal. It’s nice to realize that there truly is an art in this profession and there is an art in the sciences.”

Kim, Marshall and Thompson are thankful for all the support that made this trip possible. Marshall adds, “Thank you to University of the Pacific for all your support and the training you’ve given me.”

 

Pacific’s Hearing and Balance Center Collaborates with Stockton Civic Theater

deans-letter-audiology-hearing-aidsThe lights dim, the curtain rises, the music begins to play — it is the sights and sounds that make going to the theater an unforgettable experience. Imagine if you had difficulty hearing the music or the actors and how that would impact your experience. The Pacific Hearing and Balance Center has collaborated with the Stockton Civic Theatre to make the theater experience more enjoyable for community members that use hearing aids by refurbishing the theatre’s telecoil sound system.

“We have many patients who attend plays or musicals at the Stockton Civic Theatre and they could not hear well due to the acoustic of the space,” said Gail Amornpongchai, AuD, FAAA, C-AAA, clinical director of audiology. “We called Stockton Civic Theatre and found out they had the loop, but it had been turned off for many years as the system had interfered with the sound of one of the shows. When they tried to turn it back on, they discovered the company who had installed the loop had gone out of the business. We found another company who came to install the new amplifier and made sure everything worked well.”

“A hearing loop, or telecoil loop, is a sound system that magnetically transmits the signal to hearing aids,” explains Dr. Amornpongchai. “The hearing loop brings sound directly from the sound system of the theatre to the patient’s hearing aids, similar to a Bluetooth headset. This allows the wearer to have direct access to sounds in the presence of room reverberation and background noise, which can improve their understanding of speech.”

Sound reverberates in rooms with high ceilings, which makes auditoriums challenging environments for those who use hearing aids. “A hearing loop consists of a loop of cable which is placed around a designated area, usually a room, auditorium, theatre or church. The cable generates a magnetic field throughout the looped space which can be picked up by a hearing aid that is compatible with telecoil. Patients who have hearing aids should consult with their audiologists to see if their hearing aids have telecoil and if the telecoil is activated.”

Dr. Amornpongchai believes that it is important for everyone to understand the challenges that individuals with hearing impairments face so that as a community we can help create inclusive environments. She elaborates, “The main factors that affect hearing are distance between the speaker and the listener, background noise and reverberation. Some people think that hearing aids will solve everything and that is not true. Therefore, the community needs to provide accommodations for those who have hearing impairments. This includes modifying the acoustics in restaurants or churches by installing carpet or installing sound-absorbing materials on the walls or ceiling. Also, we can educate servers to seat people close to the wall, or in less noisy areas, when requested or sponsor a telecoil loop in public places.”

Doctor of audiology student Cheryl A. Linton ’19, MS had the opportunity to assist Dr. Amornpongchai with the process of refurbishing the hearing loop at Stockton Civic Theatre. Linton shares, “Audiology is a hands-on profession; I can learn all about hearing aids and telecoils in a book or through a lecture, but handling and operating devices gives me a much more thorough and personal understanding of what my patients have to live with on a daily basis.”

Linton explains the importance of experiential learning for students training to become audiologists. “In order for us to serve our patients well, we have to become capable, confident and competent practitioners in our field,” Linton said. “Pacific’s faculty and facilities in Stockton and San Francisco are second to none. Within the first few weeks we began interacting with patients, while being precepted by experienced faculty and clinical audiologists. Our rigorous two-year classwork in science, technology, speech and language development, business practices and other topics continues as we begin our internships. The internships are in hospitals, private practice clinics and medical offices throughout the Bay Area. They provide us with a breadth of experience with patients of all ages and in all situations. The education and ‘real world’ training I’m getting through Pacific will give me the knowledge and the skills I need to have in order to serve my future patients well.”

To learn more about Pacific’s AuD program go to pacific.edu/aud

To learn more about Pacific’s audiology clinics go to upacifichearing.com

Hearing and Balance Center, Stockton Campus
757 Brookside Rd
Stockton, CA 95211
209.946.7378

Hearing and Balance Center, San Francisco Campus
155 Fifth St
San Francisco, CA 94103
415.780.2001

 

 

Faculty Spotlight: Kenneth D. Billheimer, AuD

deans_letter_ken_billheimer“There is very little I have not seen clinically,” said Kenneth D. Billheimer, AuD. Between time spent as the owner of a private practice and working as an audiologist for the U.S. Army he has seen first-hand hearing loss from a wide range of causes.

Dr. Billheimer is a clinical instructor for Pacific’s doctor of audiology (AuD) program and an audiologist at the Hearing and Balance Center in San Francisco. Dr. Billheimer earned his bachelor of arts in communication disorders and a master of science in audiology from California State University, Fresno. He earned a doctor of audiology from Arizona School of Health Sciences.

What led you to pursue a career in audiology?
Dr. Billheimer: “It was purely by accident. In my studies, I took undergraduate audiology classes and developed a great interest in hearing and hearing rehabilitation. The next thing I knew I had taken all of the possible undergraduate courses in audiology, so graduate school was the next choice.”

What led you to join the Pacific faculty as a clinical instructor?
Dr. Billheimer: “When I sold and ‘retired’ from private practice, I knew I would need to find a purpose for what was left in life. I engaged a colleague of mine who has left the profession and is a career coach. She coached and counseled me into the next chapter. During this time, as fate would have it, I shared a cab at a national conference to my hotel. Dr. Rupa Balachandran and I sat next to each other. We talked about the Pacific audiology program and agreed to meet later that summer. The rest is history.”

For nearly 30 years you were the owner of a private practice, Hearing Science of Pleasanton. How does this background help you as you train Pacific’s audiology students?
Dr. Billheimer: “I bring to the faculty at Pacific a business acumen that will help the students I teach see the non-academic side of audiology practice.”

What are the greatest rewards and challenges of training AuD students?
Dr. Billheimer: “The greatest challenge and joy is working with a generation of students who are two generations younger than I am. Although I am in an academic environment, my experience is in the private sector as an audiologist and a businessman. I find myself buried in the same books that the student use for all their classes. I need to be prepared to answer challenging questions from bright students.”

What do you find most rewarding about working with audiology students?
Dr. Billheimer: “They are so excited to make a difference in the world. In teaching audiology as a clinical instructor, I get the greatest joy in passing on to the students my years of clinical experience from private practice, working in a teaching hospital with ear, nose and throat (ENT) residents, industrial audiology and other medical center practice settings.”

What notable changes to the profession have you witnessed over the course of your career?
Dr. Billheimer: “One of the most profound changes in audiology is early identification of hearing loss. Today identification is close to birth with the use of a tool called otoacoustic emissions. This inexpensive procedure is administered in the hospital by putting a small tip in the infant’s ear and doing a test that lasts a few minutes; it is not at all invasive. Also, we now have very sophisticated digital hearing aids and cochlear implants. All populations benefit from this technology and the success rate is the best it has ever been.”

In what ways did your experiences in the U.S. Army and the U.S. Army Reserve impact how you approach your profession as an audiologist?
Dr. Billheimer: “At one time audiologists did not fit hearing aids, it was considered unethical. In the military audiologists did everything, including fitting hearing aids. We were familiar with hearing aids long before the rest of audiology. My first Army experience was in a hospital that supported a division of 15,000 soldiers attached to a mechanized infantry group. I spent time in tanks and near large weapons measuring their sound levels. The second part of my Army experience was in a teaching hospital with residents in ENT. It impacted my career in identification and treatment of noise induced hearing loss. It gave me a compassion and understanding of the grief that an individual experiences as a result of losing his or her hearing as a result of a single incident. When I see a veteran in my clinic I have a sense of where they have been and the type of noise and other exposures they may have had.”

What are your hobbies?
Dr. Billheimer: “My greatest love is my garden. I love wildflowers and have a large garden; if it’s not raining or really cold I am outside in the yard. I love classic cars. I have a completely restored 1961 Nash Metropolitan convertible.”