5 Questions with Starkey Entrepreneurial Audiology Program Students

Twice per year, Starkey Hearing Technologies hosts an Entrepreneurial Audiology program for  Au.D. students reaching the end of their third year, in their fourth year, or who are recently graduated. The Entrepreneurial Audiology Program consists of five two-day sessions spread out across a period of six months and is designed to give Au.D students a real-world look at owning their own hearing practice.

Carolyn Pinkerton Au.D, works closely with students in this program as an Education and Training Audiologist with Starkey Hearing Technologies. She recently asked students who are currently in the program some questions about their experience as an Au.D candidate and their time in the Entrepreneurial program.


Dustin Richards, AuD- completed AuD at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in 2013

Meghan Brady, AuD- completed AuD at CUNY graduate center in 2013

Spencer Lifferth, AuD- completed AuD at Idaho State University in 2012

Kayla Gaschler- 4th year AuD candidate University of South Florida

G. “Kyle” Clifton – 4th year AuD candidate University of South Florida


Q: Please describe your journey into audiology.  What triggered your passion for this field?

Dusty- Before six years ago, I had never heard of the field. When I visited my grandfather, who was in an ICU with lung cancer, I met an audiologist who took the time to visit him bedside and troubleshoot his hearing aids so he could hear better. That left a strong impression on me. Upon returning home, I was on my third major and it was time to settle on a choice. I had enrolled in an ASL course and decided to go into speech pathology. Not long into the program, I took an intro to audiology course per the curriculum and knew then where I belonged. I have not regretted the decision since.

Kyle- I always knew I wanted to work in the medical field. I wanted to be able to care for patients in order to enrich their lives. As I was studying in undergrad for another medical profession I heard about the major, “Communication Sciences and Disorders." I started with an introduction course and fell in love with the field of audiology. After a change in my major I graduated from Florida State University and was accepted in the doctoral program at the University of South Florida. I knew this was what I wanted to do but it was not until seeing my first patient that I became absolutely hooked! I think the technology available to the hearing loss population is irreplaceable.

Meghan- My interest in working in audiology began as an undergraduate student while studying psychology and speech-language and hearing sciences. I became fascinated with the complexity of the ear and the brain, and was inspired to translate this interest into clinical work in order to improve the quality of life of individuals with hearing loss. Working as an optician’s assistant in college also influenced my decision to pursue audiology. I enjoyed working in a healthcare setting to meet the individual needs of patients and imagined that this enjoyment would generalize to the practice of audiology, while providing an outlet for my interdisciplinary interests in psychology, neuroscience and language. Clinical observations reaffirmed my decision to pursue graduate education in Audiology.

Kayla- When I was in high school, my cheerleading coach was an American Sign Language (ASL) teacher. As her teaching assistant, I enjoyed learning how to sign as well as participating in events where I was able to interact with the Deaf community. After building relationships with the Deaf community, I researched fields of study where I could help and interact with a spectrum of people from pediatrics to geriatrics with an emphasis on hearing impairment. After majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders in my undergraduate program at the University of South Florida, which gave a broad spectrum of learning in speech pathology and audiology, audiology is where my passion remained.


Q: How do you plan to “Step Out From the Crowd” in this industry?

Spencer- Being able to step out from the crowd  is sometimes tough to do.  To a person who wants to buy a hearing aid, one office often looks as good as the next but that is not the case.

At our office in Boise Idaho, we make sure that each patient feels like we are looking forward to their visits because we genuinely are.  People can tell when you are not sincere. The two audiologists in our office have dedicated 8 years of college and much more time after that to continue our education so that we can deliver the best product in a way that is conducive to our common belief that people should not have to change their lifestyle because their hearing aids limit what they can do.  We want hearing aids to liberate people from a world of silence and frustration.

Kyle- I think in the field of audiology the key to thriving is creating a long lasting relationship with the patients. It will be vital to my success to gain the trust and confidence of each and every patient. There will always be competition in this industry, but that’s a good thing! The key to my success will be to demonstrate my value to the patient and stand out from the crowd!

Q: What is the #1 piece of advice that you’d offer to someone considering pursuing an AuD?

Spencer- My best advice is to jump in with both feet. If you are not really sure about it and start the program, it may be tough for you to get traction and see the real joy that a profession as an audiologist can bring. When I figured out what I wanted to do with my studies and decided that I was going to pursue the Au.D. Program, I dedicated my time and made extra efforts to improve. I am happy to say that I graduated from the bachelors program in Communication Sciences and Disorders making the Dean’s list numerous times and was accepted to a number of Au.D. programs. I dedicated my four years of the Au.D. program to my studies and am a recent graduate equipped with the knowledge that I have the ability to really make a difference. Make sure that you have a clear vision of what you want to become and make the commitment to the life of helping people as an audiologist, there are no regrets.

Kyle- DO IT! I love the field of Audiology. It is so rewarding to be able to help a patient communicate with their family. Without our expertise, quality of life for so many of these patients would decline without intervention. We are able to keep the patient engaged with their families and to allow them to communicate for years and years. The technology has changed vastly in the past 10 years and I am excited to see what the future holds for patients with hearing loss.

Kayla- Be ready to put in a lot of work but the four years go by so quickly and it is definitely worth it!

Q: How has the Starkey Entrepreneurial program helped prepare you to reach your goals?

Spencer- The Starkey Entrepreneurial program has given me some valuable instruction about the partnerships that are available to help a small or large business in audiology thrive.  They have given us resources in and outside of Starkey Hearing Technologies to achieve our goals. Most importantly, they have given me confidence that with my abilities as an audiologist, together with my desire to help people in the best way that I see fit, I can make a difference. Being able to take a business in the direction that I see best is an invaluable asset and this program has helped me to know how to do that.

Dusty-  I would say that it helped me to re-affirm my goals. My hopes going into the program were to learn more about how to operate my own practice in the future, while gaining knowledge that I could bring back to the clinic I’m at now. Whether it was a crash course on marketing or being provided with demographics of my current area, those hopes were met. I appreciated the way that practice management topics were separated from month to month, allowing us to learn at our own pace and piece the knowledge together as we went. The highlight of the program was the take-home message on how the majority of failed practices are self-inflicted. Hard work, persistence, and willingness to lay your ego aside and adhere to proven methods take you a long way. There is not another program like this out there for students.

Kyle- The Starkey Entrepreneurial program has helped me in ways that the University setting could not. This program is geared to someone just like me. I have learned such valuable information about how the manufacturer works and what services they can provide to their customers. This program has taught me about practice development, marketing, sales and customer service. The program has encouraged me to follow my goals of becoming a private practice owner and demonstrated the vast amount of resources that are available to me. The options are endless and I appreciate Starkey’s investment in students.

Megan- The Starkey Entrepreneurial program has provided a wealth of knowledge on how to better understand our patients and customize amplification, in addition to topics including marketing, practice development, and customer service. With a better understanding of the hearing aid industry, and how to create, improve and sustain an audiology practice, we can best meet the needs of our patients and contribute to the field of audiology whether in private practice or other various hearing healthcare settings.

Kayla- The Starkey Entrepreneurial program has been so wonderful! I have learned so much in preparing to open a private practice in the near future. The best thing about the program was the relationships made with the Starkey team. They are always willing to help you succeed towards your goals and provide any additional tools, resources, or advice to help you along the way. The sessions were exceptional as they were always personalized for my specific goals within the program. I have to say my favorite weekend session was learning about business! We got to crunch numbers, learn how to write a business plan, talk about strategies and processes, and learn how to make your business succeed. Besides the coursework, the weekends were awesome and the Starkey team really treated us to a celebrity experience! I would highly encourage any Au.D. student to pursue the Starkey Entrepreneurial program!


Leave your future self a message:


Meghan- If I could speak to my future self, I’d remind myself to always set high goals, challenge myself and to keep learning throughout my career.

Kyle- Love what you do. Enjoy life. Try not to be a workaholic. You don’t have to get something done every day. Relax. Be more, do less.

By Starkey Hearing