Audiologist gives sound advice to clients in speech and hearing clinic
For Alice Sanderson, an audiologist in UGA's Speech and Hearing Clinic, a rewarding day at work might include helping a 3-month-old hear her name for the first time or helping an elderly gentleman hear the birds after years of gradual hearing loss.
Sanderson is one of two audiologists in the College of Education's communication sciences and special education department. Located on the fifth floor of Aderhold Hall, the clinic is open to the public for a fee and offers a 10 percent discount to UGA faculty, staff and students. The clinic accepts health insurance and has a sliding fee scale depending on income. The clinic provides hearing tests, hearing aid fittings, hearing aid evaluations, auditory processing testing and also performs hearing screenings at local schools.
Sanderson just finished hearing screenings for 150 third graders at Oconee County Elementary School and she has helped screen all the kindergartners in Clarke County schools.
Last year, she led screenings for 1,970 children in Clarke, Oconee and Oglethorpe counties. She even does screenings at local private schools. The children always make the mass hearing screenings fun, according to Sanderson.
"I enjoy working with the little kids," she said. "They can be pretty funny."
Sanderson attends the screenings with speech-language pathology graduate students and one-by-one they ask students to raise their hand when they hear the beep to test their hearing.
At the clinic, the clients range from infants to geriatrics, and on any given day she might fit a toddler for a hearing aid or see a local musician for earplugs.
Having worked at a busy doctor's office in New Jersey for two years, Sanderson likes the less-frenzied pace of the clinic, where she can take the time to counsel patients and not have to "do a complete audiogram and explain it all to the client in 10 or 15 minutes.
"We take a lot of time to counsel," she said. "So that people understand what their hearing loss is like, and how their hearing loss affects their communication."
Sanderson said that many of the people who come to the clinic are there for a second opinion-to have their hearing evaluated without being pressured into buying a hearing aid.
She likes being in an academic setting, and said that's why she came back to UGA after earning her master's here-to work and interact with students in a cutting-edge environment.
"A hearing aid can make a world of difference to people," she said.
The majority of Sanderson's clients are between 60 and 90 years old, and may have been slowly losing their hearing for years.
Motivation, though, is the key to success, she said. Some clients will never accept their hearing loss and a hearing aid.
"If they are motivated-if they realize they are not hearing things, they're having communication difficulty, that they're misunderstanding things, then a hearing aid can be very successful and life changing," Sanderson said.
"Because hearing loss is silent, people don't know it's going on," she added.
"You can't see that someone is hearing impaired. But socially it can be devastating. People will stop going out, stop going to meetings, stop going to church, stop interacting in groups because they can't hear what's going on, and they misunderstand something and they get embarrassed."
After being fitted for a hearing aid, Sanderson's clients tell her that they can now hear hardwood floors creak, the change jingling in their pockets or their vehicle's turn signal click.
"It's very cool when people say ‘oh wow, I didn't know that made that noise' or ‘now I can hear my grandchildren,' " she said.
When she's not tending to local ears, Sanderson may be running, biking or swimming. She's completed two sprint triathlons and is excited about competing in her next one. Having just moved up in the age brackets, she's hoping the competition is slimmer.
"I just have to keep doing it until enough people don't do it anymore and then I'll be first," she said.
Office of Communication Sciences and Special Education
B.A. Speech/Hearing Sciences, Ohio State University, 1977
M.Ed. Audiology, University of Georgia, 1989
At UGA: 14 years