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Ask An Audiology Student

Abby Harkey, B.A., and Emily Martinson, AuD, PhD

In past blog posts, we’ve talked about the education required to become an audiologist. I am lucky enough to have a wonderful audiology student interning with me from Gallaudet University this semester. Abby Harkey is in her second year of her AuD program, and today I thought it would be fun to get to know her a little better. My comments will be in print, and Abby’s will be in italics. Take it away, Abby!

Hi! My name is Abby Harkey and I’m originally from Austin, Texas! Besides a short vacation in Middle School, this is my first time on the East Coast! I went to undergrad at Baylor University with a major in Communication Sciences and Disorders, a focus on audiology, with minors in Leadership and American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreting. I love reading, hot tea, doing yoga, drinking coffee, and children!

What got you interested in audiology as a career field?

My mom is a deaf education teacher, so I’ve been around deaf and hard of hearing individuals for most of my life. When I was five years old, I befriended a girl with two cochlear implants who communicates in ASL, so I began to learn ASL so we could play together. Ever since then, I knew I wanted to work with deaf and hard of hearing individuals, but just had to figure out how. Flash forward to High School, where I was contemplating becoming a cochlear implant surgeon, among other things, to major in for undergraduate school. My mom convinced me to observe a few of her friends who were audiologists, I fell in love with the profession, and haven’t looked back since!

What is your favorite part of being an audiology student?

My favorite part of being an audiology student is learning everything and seeing how we can integrate information. I love seeing how everything makes connections with each other. The best part is when you learn something in one class that lets you understand a concept from another class even more, because you understand the reasons behind everything else.

How is being an AuD student different from your experience as an undergraduate?

Graduate school is much more rigorous than undergrad, but I think the major difference is that the point of undergraduate degrees is to learn a little bit about a lot of topics. I think undergraduate programs do this in order to promote well-rounded and thoughtful individuals who challenge standards and are always looking to improve themselves and our approaches to different topics. With graduate school, the point is to learn a lot of information about one thing, helping boost you to the knowledge of an expert, relying on the critical thinking skills we develop in our undergraduate programs. As far as the day to day, I get a lot more hands on experience, meeting clients, performing testing and hearing services, than I ever did in undergraduate school. This is by far my favorite part—I’m in audiology for the clients, all the way!!

How is learning in the classroom different from being in the clinic with real patients?

The classroom teaches us the why of audiology. This is where we learn how the ear works, how sound travels, the impact of hearing loss on the system, people’s daily life, how hearing aids and cochlear implants function mechanically, and other medically related subjects. In clinic, we are combining all of these isolated subjects and theoretical knowledge in to practical usage. We take our understanding of how the ear works and how a hearing aid works to provide the best recommendations for our clients we can. It’s a new challenge, because you can’t teach people how to integrate knowledge so each client is a new set of challenges and considerations that use our background knowledge in new and exciting ways!

What do you like to do for fun when you are not in class and the clinic?

I try to go to yoga a couple times a week. When I have the time, I love to go out with friends, whether its brunch, going to museums, wine night, painting, or seeing a movie. My roommates and I are also dedicated to decorating the house for whatever season or holiday is closest!