Today’s blog is a guest article from Adriana Goyette, Au.D (above, in red). Adriana joined Starkey Hearing Technologies as a Laboratory Audiologist in 2013. She received her undergraduate training in Speech Pathology and Audiology at the Federal University of Bahia in Salvador, Brazil and her doctorate in Audiology at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Florida. During her doctorate she worked as a research assistant investigating new methods of tinnitus testing. She joined the Starkey Audiology Research team after working in a private practice in Sacramento, California where she gained a great deal of experience fitting Starkey products.
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”
This quote from Carl Sagan, one of the greatest astrophysicists of all time, expresses one of the underlying reasons why most people go into research. The craving for new knowledge, the desire to explore new ideas, and the passion to help people with hearing loss are some of the reasons that drew me toward my current role as a research audiologist.
I started my career thinking I was going to be a clinical audiologist—until two semesters into my Au.D. program when I had the chance to work on a tinnitus research project. I instantly fell in love with the research world. The opportunity to use the information that is gathered while seeing patients to help a larger number of people was fascinating. After graduating, I worked for a year as an audiologist in a private practice. I enjoyed working with patients but missed the research component. I knew the importance of informing patients about why I was recommending one type of hearing aid instead of another, or why I thought a specific feature would be beneficial.
Fluidly integrating research and my clinical job was a challenging proposition. My clinical routines were rewarding the urge to generate new knowledge and share it with my colleagues was strong. This is why I joined Starkey Audiology Research.
The Audiology Research team at Starkey interacts with groups throughout the company: from Education and Training to Digital Signal Processing to Electrical and Mechanical Engineering. Our goal is to be the voice of the patient and the professional within research. With that in mind, we conduct laboratory tests, field trials, and surveys to determine what patients think about our features before implementing them in the next generation of hearing devices.
Our work as Research Audiologists is in many ways similar to clinical work. Every day we use fitting tools like the Inspire programming software, and verification equipment like the Audioscan and Fonix systems to fit hearing aids for research participants. We also use experimental fitting software and tools designed specifically for research needs. These specially designed systems connect to our research test devices that don’t connect to Inspire because they are running new algorithms that are very early in development.
One benefit of this position is the opportunity to see patients responding to technologies that are two or three years ahead of today’s hearing aids. Recently, we completed a field trial on a new hearing aid feature. One of the participants is a basketball coach for his son’s team. He tried the research hearing aids for eight weeks, four weeks with the new feature off and four with the feature on. When he returned for a follow-up visit, I vividly remember his response to the hearing aids. He said that his own aids never allowed him to separate the sounds of bouncing balls in the large gymnasium from the voices of the kids and the cheering crowd. When the new feature was activated his ability to separate these sounds was improved. These experiences make long hours in the lab worth the investment.
After working in Audiology Research for a year, I believe that it’s our responsibility not only to conduct studies but also to make sure that clinicians fitting Starkey hearing aids have access to the results of our studies. At a time when the Internet is the most commonly used resource for patients to obtain health information, it is important that we provide access to meaningful information that supports informed decision making (Elkin, 2008). When I was working in a clinical setting, several patients brought material downloaded from the Internet into the office. Sometimes these Internet downloads described disturbing solutions for curing tinnitus or removing wax. When situations like this occur, it’s essential that we provide evidence-based resources that offer sound research to back up the recommendations we make.
Today we make the results of many studies available online. By visiting the Starkey Evidence webpage, all of our publications can be found. We also post technical papers, research briefs, peer reviewed publications and trade articles. As a researcher, I also recommend that clinicians read materials from other sources like the Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, and trade magazines like Audiology Today. A final resource is our clinical blog, which provides an easy-to-read summary of important peer-reviewed studies.
Ultimately any dedicated clinician is, in part, a researcher. Whether you work at a private practice, a hospital, an ENT office, or a university, you’re collecting data from patients every day. This data, gleaned from day-to-day routines, can be easily compared to existing research publications or one patient’s data can be compared to others in your clinic’s database. As you collect data from patients and track the outcomes that you see in your clinic, you are also doing research. Hopefully you’ll find the call of knew knowledge an inviting one; if we ask questions and venture far enough, we will always find “something incredible” waiting to be known.
Elkin, N. (2008). How America Searches- Health and Wellness (PDF document). Retrieved from http://www.icrossing.com/sites/default/files/how-america-searches-health-and-wellness.pdf