Episode 27 Show Notes

(Read the episode transcript below)

On episode 27 of All Ears at Child’s Voice: A Hearing Loss Podcast, Tatum and Wendy are joined by Katie Farnsworth, AuD. Katie works as a pediatric audiologist at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. She grew up wearing bilateral hearing aids and received a cochlear implant as an adult. Katie shares about her experience growing up with hearing loss and hearing aids, studying Hearing and Speech Sciences and Audiology in undergraduate and graduate school, receiving a cochlear implant as an adult while working as an audiologist, and working with families and children as a pediatric audiologist.

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Special thanks to John McCortney & Michael McCortney for their work recording All Ears at Child’s Voice episodes. Episodes of All Ears at Child’s Voice are graciously edited by John McCortney.

Disclaimer: Child’s Voice is a listening-and-spoken-language program for children with hearing loss. All Ears at Child’s Voice: A Hearing Loss Podcast is a resource provided by Child’s Voice. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by Child’s Voice. The views expressed by guests are their own and their appearance on the program does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. Views and opinions expressed by Child’s Voice employees are those of the employees and do not necessarily reflect the view of Child’s Voice.

John McCortney: Welcome to All Ears at Child’s Voice, we aim to connect parents of children with hearing loss with the professionals who serve them. I am John McCortney and I am the audio engineer for these podcasts. I became involved with Child’s Voice when one of the music teachers, a soprano singer who I know, told me that she was teaching music to hearing impaired children. I knew right away that I needed to be involved in this and I attended one of her music classes. Frankly, I was so moved that at one point I had to turn away so the children would not see that I had been moved to tears. It has been my good fortune to be involved with Child’s Voice ever since. In this episode Wendy and Tatum will be talking with Katie Farnsworth who is an Audiologist at Lurie Children’s Hospital. Katie also uses a cochlear implant and a hearing aid. We hope you enjoy their conversation.

Tatum:

Welcome to another episode of All Ears at Child’s Voice. We aim to connect parents of children with hearing loss,with the professionals who serve them. We’re your hosts, I’m Tatum Fritz.

Wendy:

And I’m Wendy Deters. Our guest today is Katie Farnsworth, who is an audiologist at Lurie Children’s Hospital. Today we are going to be talking to her about her experience working as an audiologist, as someone who uses a cochlear implant and a hearing aid. So she is a bi-modal technology user. So welcome Katie. Thank you so much for being here.

Katie:

Thank you for having me.

Tatum:

Yeah. Thank you. I know it’s taken us a while to actually officially schedule this, but we’re excited to talk to you. So usually before we jump into the main discussion, I’m not sure if you’ve listened to the show before, and I forgot to put this in your sample discussion questions, but we like to ask our guests every week for a story from the past week. So you can take a minute to think about it if you need a second. But it could be anything, something cute, something funny, something heartwarming. And we just do this so our listeners get a sense of who you are. So does anything come to mind?

Katie:

Yes, actually. So just this morning, I have an 18 month old. Her name is Nora. And she is very busy and my husband’s a fireman and he’s actually off shifts. So we’re both off today. And, um, when we’re both off, he tries to, you know, get some home improvement projects done in the house, um, which means that Nora needs to be occupied doing something else. And so this morning, since it was too cold to go outside yet, we filled up a bucket of dish soap with water and Nora just went to town and in our kitchen. And that was awesome. And, you know, so we went through a couple changes of clothes and yeah, it was great.

Tatum:

I love that name, Nora. It’s really beautiful. And I do that activity all the time in therapy.

Katie:

It was so fun.

Wendy:

Yeah. I was going to say you’re a natural therapist.

Katie:

I feel like it’s just, you know, always just trying to find something new to entertain her. So yeah.

Tatum:

Before we go forward. Would you mind telling us just briefly, cause we’ll get more into it in the discussion, but about your role at Lurie and what you do?

Katie:

So I’ve been at Lurie for about five years, um, and I have been on their diagnostic team for a number of years and that was really any patient from, you know, a newborn who failed their newborn hearing screening, inpatient, NICU, CICU kiddos. And then you know, if we are diagnosing a hearing loss, then following those kids through the trajectory of their young life. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with children, you know, since birth, which has been really cool to kind of watch. And then now, I also am on the cochlear implant team. So then to kind of follow those kids after they’ve been implanted, if that’s what necessary. So I kind of do everything at Lurie, which is a lot of fun just to be able to kind of have a different day each day.

Wendy:

Is there an aspect of audiology that you enjoy more? Do you enjoy diagnostics or cochlear implant programming, hearing aid fitting, like what’s your favorite thing to do?

Katie:

I think that each area has like my favorite part maybe of that area, but I think as a whole, I really like testing kids. I really like meeting families and kind of getting to the root of what’s going on. And then, you know, kind of making a plan from there. I think that is just so crucial as, you know, those first steps to just formulate a plan that’s going to be able to be executed. So yeah, I feel like diagnostic testing is definitely my something that I hold near and dear to my heart.

Tatum:

That’s so interesting. I could imagine, like with some families it’s such a relief to have an answer and then some of the time, you know, it’s a more stressful process and both are helpful to make that plan.

Katie:

Yeah, absolutely. And I think to your point too, I think sometimes families come to us because there’s concern about hearing loss and hearing is normal. So then, you know, there’s also the difficult conversation on the flip side of what other factors could be at play for why a kid isn’t, you know, is kind of presenting, like they have a hearing loss or presenting, you know, with a speech and language delay.

Tatum:

Since we’re on the end where we get them after the hearing loss has been diagnosed. Sometimes I forget to like, think about that aspect. So, we wanted to have you on the show to kind of talk about how your own hearing loss relates to your role as an audiologist both how it impacts your career, but also just your journey throughout your life as you worked to become an audiologist. So to get started, could you share with our listeners about your own hearing loss and then the devices that you wear?

Katie:

Sure. So, my hearing loss has progressed, but currently I have a severe to profound hearing loss in both ears. I have a hearing aid in my left ear and I was actually, I was a previous bilateral hearing aid user. And then my right ear, I was actually implanted just over three years ago. So relatively new to the CI for world for myself.

Wendy:

So that happened while you were working at Lurie?

Katie:

Yes. Yes. It was actually kind of a couple of crazy weeks. I got married, ran my first half iron man and got implanted within like six weeks. So it was, it was kind of a lot, but yeah, it was during my time at Lurie, which was really awesome because that was when I was also making the transition to the cochlear implant team. So just kind of having that personal experience as well was really cool for me to have.

Wendy:

Yeah. So having that personal experience, like, is that something that you ever share with families, with parents? How does that play into how you counsel families when they have questions about, you know, what is my child hearing?

Katie:

Absolutely. Yeah, I think that I am very much an open book when it comes to my experience. I try to be careful because I think that each patient and each family’s experience is different. And so, you know, if there’s really a specific question about, you know, I feel like a big question that comes up during initial activation is what are they hearing? I will say, you know, perhaps they’re hearing beeps, perhaps they’re hearing, you know, your voice sound like Mickey Mouse and kind of just giving a full range of what could possibly be happening. Because again, every patient is so different. And it does come up, you know, parents will ask me, well, what did you hear? And, um, you know, I kinda like to phrase it, like everything kind of sounded like keys on a piano and it just took a while for my brain to adjust.

Tatum:

What was that experience like when you first got the implant? Did you take time off work? Like, what was the adjustment process?

Katie:

I was implanted and then I took a week off, just, you know, as an adult, also my recovery, maybe wasn’t as fast as some of these youngsters. So it did take a few extra days for me just to kind of feel, you know, just like I could really kind of walk around. And so I took a week off and then I did go back to work with just listening with one ear, which was a hard week. But I think working at Lurie, it was like the perfect place to go back to work because everyone understands hearing loss. And so then after I was activated, I then just continued to work. I did feel that very quickly, I was able to hear better. So that was really awesome to kind of have that personal experience as well.

Tatum:

Yeah. By hear better, do you mean like better than with your hearing aid or like was it already like a few weeks it was already better than with your hearing aid?

Katie:

Yeah, I think that even if my brain couldn’t tell me that was like the “S” sound, I think I was quickly realizing what those tunes were that no, that’s the “S” sound that I’m hearing. And I feel like I noticed that very early on, which was awesome and kind of overwhelming too, to have gone my whole life was such a significant loss to hear those sounds so clearly it, it was kind of emotional for me.

Wendy:

I’ve also heard from other adult cochlear implant recipients that they were really fatigued those first few weeks. Besides being able to hear all these new, incredible things, what else was it like right afterwards?

Katie:

I was pretty worn out those first few weeks, especially after I was activated. You know, I think my husband did such a nice job of just really trying to just slow down and just have conversations, like really simple conversations with me too, because he knew at work, it was just, you know, of course, you’re trying to continue to see patients and meet their needs. So I think at the end of the day, it almost seemed like I was as tired as I was those first few weeks of my pregnancy. I think that’s kind of an easy way to put it where I just like wanted to go to sleep as soon as I got home. It was a pretty short lived experience. But I do remember I was, I was pretty wiped out, so yeah.

Wendy:

Wait, did you do the half iron man before activation or after.

Katie:

It was before.

Tatum:

That is a very busy time.

Wendy:

And your doctor was okay with you doing that?

Katie:

Yeah. So that was actually before surgery too. So that was, yes. So they were like, that’s fine. You can do that. You know.

Tatum:

We are continuing on this path for a while, but I’m curious. What kind of rehab did you do? Like, did you do any like personal rehab or did you just like let your brain practice listening in natural environments?

Katie:

Sure. I think that I did a little bit of personal rehab, just different things that I would find online. But I will admit I was not great about doing it. So I do think in the long run, it was more just me allowing my brain to kind of make sense of what was going on. I do regret not spending, not devoting more time to that because I think that perhaps my ramp up would have been even that much faster if I had followed more of a structured program. I think that if I ever needed an implant in my other ear, I would be more likely to, try to do something that was more formal.

Tatum:

Yeah, more motivated. It is hard. Like I’ve been a physical therapy patient and like, I just think about it all the time. We send home all these things for our families to do, and I was terrible at compliance in physical therapy. So I understand. And then, what prompted you to make that decision to get that implant?

Katie:

So my right ear has always historically been my poorer ear. And I think what really prompted me was there was an instance where I was going to work and my left hearing aid was not working. And it was just really stressful for me and it wasn’t something where I could just fix in the office. It was going to have to go in. So I just felt just so… Debilitated, isn’t the right word, but I just felt just so disadvantaged, you know, that I now was going to have to rely on my right ear. And how was that going to go and how was I truly going to be able to see families the way that I needed to see them? And so I think quickly after that, especially as I was starting my training as working with kids who have cochlear implants and also just seeing their success, I think that was a huge motivating factor for me to just go for it.

Tatum:

Sounds it sounds like you were highly motivated and obviously as an audiologist, you’re probably more informed about everything with the process than the average patient, but were there any like fears that you had or anything that made you feel hesitant?

Katie:

Sure. I think that selfishly surgery was scary for me. I didn’t, you know, that whole process was just a little “hmmm,” you know, I think that’s a big deal. Surgery is a big deal, no matter what it is. So I think that was really my biggest thing. I knew that I was really not getting a lot from my hearing aid. So in terms of like losing what I had, I really didn’t have a lot. So I think it was more the aspect of surgery. And I actually distinctly remember the last night before surgery, I took both hearing aids out and it kind of came over me like, “Oh my gosh, this is the last time that I’m going to take two hearing aids out.” You know, it’s been 30 plus years and here we are. So that I think was just kind of making that transition was something I was comfortable with and something I was familiar with and I was kind of going into unchartered territories for me.

Wendy:

Yeah. That’s a big shift. So you talked a little bit about, you just said, you know, wearing hearing aids for 30 years, if we can back up a little bit, how did your journey with hearing aids start?

Katie:

Sure. So, the newborn hearing screening wasn’t really, you know, formulated until the year 2000. So I was born several years before that and so it wasn’t until my younger sister was born, that she as a newborn was responding to stuff way more consistently than I was at two and a half. So that’s kind of what prompted my parents to move forward with having some testing done. So, I actually was seen at Children’s Memorial and they performed an ABR. And I had bilateral hearing loss and they quickly fit me with hearing aids after that. So I’ve really been a consistent hearing aid user since I was two.

Wendy:

And then what was your education like? It sounds like you grew up in the Chicago area.

Katie:

I did. So I’m a native of Naperville, so district two 203 and my parents sent me to a speech and language preschool when I was three and four. And then I was mainstreamed from kindergarten on. So I had a hearing itinerary teacher, I used an FM system all the way through high school.

Wendy:

Yeah. So then, okay, so you go through high school and what made you start to, you know, go into higher ed and want to become an audiologist? Did you know that right away going into college? Or how did that shift over time?

Katie:

Yes. So there was a very specific time when I was seven years old after I was initially diagnosed at Children’s Memorial, I had an audiologist who I’d worked with for a number of years, she ended up relocating. And so at that point, my parents were like, you know what, let’s find something maybe a little bit closer to Naperville from Westchester. So I kind of bounced around different audiologists for a couple of years. And there was one audiologist in particular that I saw who she just, I mean, I think that she was really trying to connect with me, but she was kind of saying all the wrong things. Like, I understand, I know what you’re feeling, you know, and at seven I’m like, “you don’t know what I’m feeling, you know, you have normal hearing. I do not.” So just, I just felt like that disconnect with her. And it was at that moment we got in the car and I looked at my mom and I said, “Okay, I’m going to be an audiologist.” And really since then that’s been the dream.

Tatum:

Wow. Since 7.

Wendy:

You seem like a very determined person when you make up your mind about something, it will happen.

Tatum:

That’s interesting that like, um, it was like the motivation of having an audiologist that you could relate to. So backing up a little bit, going back just like over all to your hearing loss, if you’re comfortable sharing, like how does your hearing loss overall like inform your own identity? Like how, how does it relate to your personal identity?

Katie:

Sure. So I was actually listening to the podcast that you guys did with the woman at The University of Chicago talking about identity and I think it’s really interesting. I think that what I really liked about what that discussion kind of talked about was kind of how you can have multiple identities. So I think that, you know, yes, my hearing loss is something that makes me unique but it does not define me. And I think that, you know, I’m a mother, I’m a wife, I’m an audiologist, all of those other things before I would say and I have a hearing loss, because I think that, you know, being somebody who does like to just kind of think the future and the accomplishments that I want to have for myself, there are so many other things that I would talk about. Regardless of whether or not I had normal hearing or not. So I do think, in some ways, yes, my hearing loss of course has set me up for self-advocacy, determination, things like that. But I think that in the long run. I wouldn’t consider it to be something that really is, you know, something that I would think about in the forefront of my identity.

Tatum:

That woman is Dr. Friedner. I love that episode. Afterwards, Wendy and I were like exhausted because she brought up so many ideas we’ve never thought about, or like we’ve thought about, but not on such an in-depth level. But I did like how she talked about the multiple identities and I feel like the main thing that I took away from that conversation is that everybody develops their own identity. And it’s so individualized, so that you can never assume how someone’s going to define themselves label themselves or feel about their own hearing loss or whatever else is part of their identity.

Katie:

And I think there was a huge discussion too about just the level of respect that you have for other people, you know, of how they identify themselves. And so just because I’m not somebody who would just kind of come out right front and say, “Oh, I have a hearing loss, this is, you know, kind of the forefront of how I identify myself,” if somebody else does do that, kind of giving them the grace. And I think it’s important to hear their story too.

Wendy:

Yeah. So it sounds like, so you told your mom when you were seven, that you wanted to be an audiologist and then obviously you went on and did that, how did your family go through the process of you deciding to move forward with the cochlear implant? How did they respond to that?

Katie

They wanted what was best for me. So I think that there was never any hesitation from anyone in my family. They just wanted to be as supportive as possible. What was really great was I think it was day two after surgery, my husband was on shift. And so I wasn’t really that, you know, doing terribly well yet. And so my mom actually came and hung out with me for the day. So I do think we’re a close-knit family. So there was a lot of support. Of course there were a lot of questions about long-term results from that. What’s the long-term trajectory going to look like? But I think in terms of like support, they were, you know, they were there 100%,

Tatum:

So I know we’ve jumped around a little bit, but going back to your career as an audiologist, so you were seven when you decided to be an audiologist, but what was like your higher education experience? What kind of experiences did you have in college? And then how did you decide to go, like to what grad school and where?

Katie:

So I did my undergraduate at University of Iowa. And I really went there for kind of two reasons. One knowing their audiology program especially at the graduate level. I initially thought, you know, maybe I would just stay there for eight years and complete everything. And then I also was on the rowing team there. So I was a D1 athlete as well. I double majored in Speech and Hearing Sciences and Spanish. So that was college. College was kind of a blur. I feel like between practice and racing and classes and exams, you know, that’s kind of what I did all day every day. But what was cool about the rowing team is, you know, there were so many motivated women who had huge aspirations too. You know, several nursing students, a couple of med students, you know, so I think that was nice because you did just have that camaraderie as well. And there was actually a girl on my rowing team who also had a hearing loss too, and she and I are still good friends. So that was really cool to have as well in college. I then came back to Chicago and I went to Rush University Medical Center for my doctorate in audiology. And at that point, my dream was to come back to Lurie. So backing up, when I was seven and we were kind of bouncing around people at that point then we then did transition back to Lure. And I began working with the same audiologists through college. So, you know, the hope is to then kind of go back to where it all started. So that was kind of what brought me back to Chicago too.

Wendy:

That’s really cool. Did you have a placement at Lurie? Like, did you do a practicum placement there?

Katie:

Yeah, so I completed my externship there, which is the fourth year program and then I was fortunate enough to be hired after that.

Wendy:

So you always knew that you wanted to be a pediatric audiologist.

Katie:

Oh yeah.

Wendy:

Did you have any experiences working with adults when you were in your AUD program and what was that like?

Katie:

Sure. I did, I had done a rotation at one of the VAs. I had worked at a private practice that kind of really was geared more towards an adult population. And so I did have that experience as well. It just, it wasn’t the same, you know, as working with kids. And I also think because of my own experience, my experience had been as a kid at that point. So yeah, the dream was always to be a pediatric audiologist.

Wendy:

So this is kind of a question for other professionals. I know a lot of people, a lot of SLPs and audiologists do their final practicum placement at the place where they end up getting their first job. What was it like to go from student to professional in the same place?

Katie:

Yeah, that’s a really good question. The way that Lurie has it set up is that you have a primary preceptor. And so my primary preceptors ended up being my then mentors for making the transition, which I think was really wonderful because they had worked with me to kind of develop my skills as a student. And so they could help then me turn around to continuing to hone those skills as a clinician. I think that, of course, just like anyone kind of coming out of school, just having your name ne what’s on that audiogram is, is a big step. So, I think that a place like Lurie, it’s such a collaborative group and we do just such a great job of having meetings and, evidence-based reviews, continuing to ask questions. So, you know, if you do see a patient that kind of stumps you there’s a wealth of knowledge in that room and people just want to help and, you know, just make the organization that much better too.

Tatum:

Yeah. It is such a weird transition from student to therapist. It’s interesting to think of doing it at the same place. I think when, when I transitioned from student to, to therapist, I think one of the things that was, stressful for me is that then the rapport with the parent or the child or the patient was like, I was developing it, whereas before I used to go through my mentor who developed the rapport and then I felt like I was like under her rapport, if that makes sense.

Katie:

Yes,

Tatum:

And it’s a weird transition.

Katie:

Yeah, absolutely. And I think that those first few new IDs, you know, a full-fledged audiologist, I feel like I will always remember those, you know, because it was just such a learning experience for me, for the family too. And I feel like those are the kids that you just, really kind of stick with you.

Tatum:

It sounds like one of your main motivations to become an ideologist was to be able to relate to your patients. So when you do have an older patient, I think Wendy and I think all patients are like two to three, like an older patient, like do you ever talk with them like directly about your hearing loss? Do you guys relate together? I know we talked a little bit about like talking to parents, but the patients themselves, like how do you go about that? How does it have an impact on how you develop that rapport with them?

Katie:

Yeah. I definitely will bring it up. Again, I try to be careful about it, especially because we just see so many kids that hearing loss is secondary to something else. And so for me, I’m healthy, you know, I have never had to undergo any type of treatment, medications. So I do think that there is a level where you need to just tread lightly when it comes to working with a kiddo who potentially had normal hearing, and now we do not. And I also think that I had the luxury of being identified at a very early age too. So, you know, some of those kids that now we’re failing like a first grade, second grade, third grade, screening, and now trying to wear hearing aids for the first time. I think that’s a really hard thing to do as a five-year-old. So, I think that I try to meet them where they are. And if they want to talk about my hearing loss, we can talk about it. But I do think sometimes my own experience helps me frame questions maybe a little bit differently to not make them feel like put on the spot or that I know their experience, because even though I have a hearing loss, that doesn’t mean that I have your hearing loss.

Wendy:

Yeah. You sound like a really good role model for other younger people with hearing loss. Did you have any of those role models growing up? Like, did you know any other adults with hearing loss?

Katie:

I unfortunately didn’t, you know, the only adult that I knew with a hearing loss was my 90-year-old grandfather. So, just a little bit different. I had a lot of wonderful role models growing up, but none of them had a hearing loss. And so I think that, you know, looking at patients and wanting them to have role models, whether that be an adult like me, or I think what’s really important is to have role models in your peers. I actually had a very good friend growing up who did have a hearing loss as well. And she and I just really bonded, in terms of just, just having that connection. So I do think just having those peer role models is really great, which is so wonderful about Child’s Voice too. So I think that sometimes can be those lasting relationships as well, you know, as you continue to grow up and have that other person who is kind of going through it on that same trajectory as you.

Wendy:

That representation, that sense of belonging and identity that we know is so important. We have to think about that too. had a conversation at an IEP the other day about, well, who are this child’s peers? Are the other children with hearing loss? Are they children with typical hearing? And it got a little heated and it’s really, when you’re talking about a very young child, a two-year-old, it’s the parents who try to give that child a good peer group. And it’s hard when, , sometimes other, other people have ideas about who they think children should identify with. So it’s awesome that you had those people in your life that had similar shared experiences to you.

Tatum:

Thinking about, being a young child with hearing loss, how did your own understanding of your hearing loss get shaped over time? Were you taught that by hearing itinerants? Did your parents teach you, how did you come to understand the fact that, “I have a hearing loss, this is what it is, this is how I can share it with other people. This is how it affects me.”

Katie:

I think that my parents and I didn’t necessarily talk about my hearing loss in the sense of like, you know, this is why you have your hearing loss. This is why we wear hearing aids. And I think that was just because I just really took off running when I had my hearing aids. You know that all of a sudden my world was opened up. My mom’s like you came home that first day and you were like, what’s that what’s that, what’s that? So I just wanted to wear my hearing aids. And I don’t think I really asked a lot of questions because I think that I was raised in a household where again my hearing loss was not what I, you know, what made me, me maybe. And so, you know, it was really kind of more like once I was in elementary school that my hearing itinerant would talk more about like, you know, just hearing loss, degrees of hearing loss and how the hearing system works and everything like that, which was very fascinating. I think I just was kind of like, “Oh, you know, this is just kind of what it is.” Because I think that my family never made it a big deal. And you know, we kind of just rolled with the punches. And it’s not that they didn’t want to draw attention to it. I think it was more just, “Hey, you know, you’re doing great. You’re excelling and you are making progress in speech and language.” So from an early age, because my hearing loss was a little bit of a lesser degree that my hearing aids were really able to give me the volume I needed to be able to communicate effectively. And I had no problem becoming an oral communicator too. So I think perhaps maybe if I had had a more significant hearing loss from day one, maybe the conversation would have been a little bit different.

Wendy:

Yeah. You mentioned that your hearing loss is progressive and, and talking about understanding and knowing your hearing loss. When did, did you notice that that was happening or how did you notice?

Katie:

My hearing loss, I think kind of just slowly started to decline over time, really kind of like still within that clinically insignificant range, like every year it would just kind of creep down a little bit. But then once I actually hit grad school, that’s when my hearing really kind of started to bottom out. And so at that point, you know, it was, it was pretty evident to me that I needed, you know, more powerful hearing aids and, and, you know, just starting to kind of think about what next steps could be.

Wendy:

Did anybody else around you notice or was it just something that you knew was going on?

Katie:

I definitely knew. And then, yes. And then I feel like those people close to me, they were kind of, like, “I already said it four times,” you know? So. And then actually, I do feel like interestingly enough, since, being pregnant, I feel like my hearing has continued to change since then, too. So that is something that, you know, my family and I have discussed too, especially as we look to continue to grow our family in the future like what could this mean down the line? I think what’s amazing is having this experience with my first side, that if that’s what’s needed, then of course then we’ll move forward.

Tatum;

I can imagine too if your hearing was progressing more quickly in grad school than your peers that were noticing, were probably really tuned into that as I’m imagining your peers were probably other audiology students.

Katie:

Absolutely. Yes, yes. You’re exactly right. And actually when I started to be like, “Oh, I think something’s going on.” I just had one of my colleagues just test me, you know, in the booth. And, so that was like awesome. Because I could just have a quick audiogram to kind of just track over time too.

Tatum:

How was that experience like? I know graduate school is a stressful time. Do you feel that because your hearing was progressing at the same time, did that add extra stress, do you think?

Katie:

I think to a level it did. Yes. I think that because of how crazy my undergraduate couple of years were, grad school while yes, I’m seeing patients I’m also in class, it seemed pretty manageable, because of what my experience had been in college. So of course adding that layer of feeling like my hearing is changing was hard, but I didn’t feel like it was, you know, just something that was keeping me up at night, you know, that I was really concerned about because I also knew that, you know, there’s more powerful technology and of course a cochlear implant is also a possibility too. So I think I didn’t feel like I had like no options.

Tatum:

Yeah. That makes sense. Yeah. My undergrad was also kind of crazy busy and I felt grad school was, well, it was busier during the day, but it was like more structured. So I was like, I can do this. I just have to check off these tasks.

Wendy:

Katie, I did. I had the exact same, well almost, I did the speech route, but I went to Iowa for my undergrad and Rush for my grad program. Yeah. And Iowa really stressful, especially the last, like you said, two years, it was pretty competitive. It was not easy.

Katie:

And I just remember like, my rowing coach, we would have practice until like 8:00 or 8:30 and I would have class at 9:00. And so I am just booking it over to the other side. I’m showing up in spandex and like, Oh my God, am I ready to kind of just turn this around? But I think Iowa was such a great program and just so many awesome mentors too, and professors. So that was something that was really wonderful to then take over to Rush too, because of course a lot of the literature that we were reading was then, you know, a lot of it was coming out of Iowa too.

Wendy:

Yeah, that’s really cool. So, another question we had for you is from the time you were a child to now as an adult working as an audiologist, you know, things have obviously changed quite a bit from, from when you were younger. What do you notice has changed in the field?

Katie:

I think that two of the main things that have changed is accessibility and technology. So accessibility, just even with parents being able to Google hearing loss, you know, that was not something that my parents were able to do when I was diagnosed. And I do think from that it kind of opens up this huge Pandora’s box of social media, podcasts, you know, other families that are going through these experiences, literature. So I think that over time we have just seen such a huge growth in that area where parents and also professionals are able to connect with other people to kind of talk about hearing loss and what this means. And then I think in terms of technology, of course, just watching technology change over time that my hearing aids as a two-year-old were the size of my arm, right, compared to what they can look like now. It’s the same as true as cochlear implants. You know, now we don’t kids wearing body-worn processors, that’s not the norm anymore. So I think that it’s cool to watch that shift happen, that devices are becoming smaller, smarter, faster. And also I think just having the color options too from a parent perspective, you know, just if my kiddo were ever to be diagnosed with a hearing loss, you best believe I’m picking out pink hearing aids for her I think that is also just another level of being able to kind of personalize it a little bit more. Even if it is just like something silly.

Wendy:

That’s not silly, you know, what’s interesting about the color thing, going back to that, that meeting that I had on Friday, you know, the mom said her daughter has very dark, dark brown hair. And she said to the school district that I picked out white cochlear implants for my daughter because I wanted them to stand out. I want her to know her identity and I want her to be proud of that and not be not have to hide it. I want people to be able to see that. And I had never thought of that before, you know, we as therapists, I always thought like, “Oh, so you can see them when they fall off.” But you know, it’s really amazing. It does seem like a small thing that color or stickers or hearing aid charms, like those things seem minor, but they’re really not for parents. And for kids. Kids are so proud of having the Batman sticker on their implant or their hearing aid charm.

Katie:

You’re so you’re so, so right. I actually have a set of twins that we just activated a few months ago and they’re identical twins and they’re beautiful, but they’re identical. So I can’t. So anyway, one of them has an implant on the right side. One has an implant on the left side and one of them has black processors. One of them has white processors and these things are just bedazzled and it’s so cool because clearly, the girls got to pick out their colors and it just was such a cool process for them and they just own it, like you said, you know, it is something that they’re proud of. And they’re not afraid to hide it.

Tatum:

Just as a speech therapist who doesn’t have a hearing loss, it’s always cool to see what new technology comes out and it’s exciting cause I think of like what my families could benefit from, but as someone with a hearing loss, I’m guessing, you’re personally excited about like some of the newer technology that comes out. What’s that experience like that you get the first, like you probably often get the first look at things cause I know the companies come out to educate audiologists on what’s coming up.

Katie:

Absolutely. So I do think that does give me a little bit of advantage to just try a piece of equipment and just see what this looks like, but I do think, you know, for my own personal gain, at some point it is kind of cool to be able to know what’s coming down the pipeline. I do think that cochlear implant companies and hearing aid companies do a pretty good job about keeping their mouth quiet about what’s coming out until they really have a launch date because they know audiologists are just excited to share this with their families. Any professional is. I do think, you know, once we know a new product is coming out, it’s nice because it is usually a pretty quick turnaround for us to be able to dispense it.

Wendy:

We’ve talked a lot about the conversation that you had with that audiologist when you were seven. But outside of that, do you have any other like really specific life experiences that have had an impact on you regarding your hearing loss?

Katie:

Yeah, so I think that, having a hearing loss, especially as a young kiddo of the nineties, technology wasn’t great in terms of like waterproof options. So I think that, swimming was, you know, a tough thing for me just because I’m learning how to swim. I can’t hear anything. So, having to rely on just all those visual cues and kind of figuring it out. So I do think that that was something, that I had to overcome and I feel like that was like the biggest thing. It almost seemed like my hearing loss was like the swimming pool. I have to figure out how to make this work and adapt. And I think what’s really cool about that is to have the peers that I had, to have the family that I had, the community that I had, to have the support that I was able to conquer that. And I think, you know, I was on the rowing team. I do triathlons. I swam until the day before I delivered, you know, I feel like I just, now I love the water. So I do think it’s important to remember to not, limit yourself and there’s always a way, and it’s just figuring out how to adapt to make your dreams happen. And so I think that for me, that was kind of like a big life experience to, you know, kind of demonstrate how you can conquer your fears when necessary.

Wendy:

Yeah. That’s incredible. I did want to actually ask you one more question about being an athlete. You know, it sounds like you said you have a lot of, you do a lot of water sports, and I know running races and biking, how does your hearing loss impact you in some of those races and what are some things that you do to make sure that you are safe and comfortable while you are competing?

Katie:

Interestingly enough, my next half Ironman that I did was after my implant surgery. So I think there was also a kind of a cool comparison of, “Oh wow. I can hear a lot better.” So, but I think that for any races, it was really kind of learning the course. And being cautious of other athletes that are perhaps a little more competitive. I mean, I feel like I’m pretty competitive but just, you know, just kind of watching out for people who are maybe just not paying attention to who’s around. And so I think that just self-awareness, and awareness of your surroundings too has been huge just to make sure that I feel safe. I think there is some level of risk-taking though, too, where you have to go with it and see what happens. But I think also just having that, you know, kind of knowledge going into it is helpful too.

Tatum:

Do you use any specific accessories during workouts or runs?

Katie:

Sure. So right now I’m able to stream everything to my phone, which is awesome. So during workouts, I just wear a little, you know, backpack or fanny pack or whatever, and put my phone in there so I can at least listen to music while I’m running. And that’s also, I think, good just in case something happens right. Then somebody can ping me. But then in terms of racing, I will wear like a water case on my implant. But actually both times that I’ve done big open water swimming during races. I’ve just not worn anything just because I am kind of nervous about losing something just with that many people in the water too. But then I do keep it in the case, you know, through the rest of the racing, just because I’m still pretty wet.

Wendy:

Thank you so much. You’ve given us such a cool conversation and it’s been really fun like getting to know you as a person. We’ve emailed so many times and we’ve talked about patients, but they’re always like quick two or three minute emails and we’ve never gotten to sit down and have an actual conversation and learn more about you as a person. So it’s been really fun. What other final advice or resources do you have that you want to share with our listeners?

Katie:

Never stop asking questions, whether that’s of your therapist, your audiologist, you know, other people, I think that it’s so important to just continue to learn more. I think that I didn’t ask a lot of questions as a kid. And so I think then I spent the rest of my adult life kind of just trying to figure out those answers too. So, asking questions and just embracing, embracing your identity too whether that is identifying as a person who has a hearing loss or identifying as Katie, it’s important to just make sure that you still have a sense of self too.

Tatum:

Yeah. This has been so fun talking to you. And like Wendy said, like our main contact with the audiologist at Lurie is like phone and emails. And it’s always good to put a face to a name that we’ve interacted with before, and it’s even better to get to know you. So thanks for, one being so flexible with the scheduling for this. I know it’s been a long time coming and then being willing to connect with us over Zoom.

Katie:

Awesome. No problem. Yeah. This was a blast.

Wendy:

Yeah. I think when we had this originally scheduled, we were scheduled in-person and then, you know, the bottom fell out of the world. So we’re so happy. We were still able to talk to you.

Tatum:

Thank you for joining us for another episode of All Ears at Child’s Voice. Be sure to join us for our next episode. We release episodes once monthly.

Wendy:

If you’d like to reach out to us, you can find us on Twitter and Instagram. I’m at @wendydetersSLP and you can find Tatum @tatumfritzSLP.

Tatum :

You can also email us at podcast@childsvoice.org, And you can find episodes, show notes and archived episodes at our Child’s Voice website, childsvoice.org.

Wendy”

And if you’re interested in learning more about Child’s Voice, we are on Facebook as well as Twitter and Instagram with the handle @childs_voice. No apostrophe.

Tatum:

Okay. We’ll see you next time. Bye.

Wendy:

Bye.

Katie:

Bye.

Child’s Voice Students:

BYE. THANKS FOR LISTENING!

John McCortney:

Be sure to join us for our next episode when Wendy and Tatum will be speaking with Amanda Deveraux. Amanda is a public health nurse and is currently the program director of the National CMV Foundation. Until then, Bye!