Luck was on the side of our Audiology Center during the pandemic. Of course it wasn’t just luck that allowed the Center to re-open for services during the height of the pandemic in June 2020, but the careful planning, the expertise and professionalism of the Center’s staff played a big part in this important milestone. During the strange time that COVID-19 affected operations at Child’s Voice, Audiology staff was also lucky to have Audiology extern Heather Lemajeur – now Dr. Heather.

Four women in ugly holiday sweaters standing against a yellow wall

Dr. Heather Lemajeur, right, became like part of the Audiology Center staff during her externship.

When the Center was closed during COVID lockdown, babies continued to be born and those whose newborn hearing screening indicated a possible hearing loss lost a vital place to get tested, potentially delaying diagnosis and treatment that could help them learn to listen and speak. Re-opening the Center meant babies and families were able to begin their journey to remediation of the hearing loss more quickly. Dr. Heather, who was finishing her Au.D, was involved in conducting Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) tests for these babies and she was up to the challenge of doing this important work during a scary time.

A Change in Plans

Lemajeur graduated in May 2021 from Rush University with a clinical doctorate in Audiology. However, when she started college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she did not know much about hearing loss, speech therapy, or audiology. She did know that she disliked her chosen major, political science, causing her to question her goal of going to law school. Luckily, her sorority raised money for speech and hearing causes and so she became curious about the field. She took classes in speech and hearing education and liked it, and was able to observe speech therapy and audiology sessions. Lemajeur also thought about being a teacher and was a full-time nanny. However after her observations in audiology and because she liked working with kids, she decided to pursue pediatric audiology.

During her time at Rush University Medical Center she was able to work with children and their families. She also gained experience at an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctor’s office and at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, where her patients were children who had cochlear implants. One of her classes at Rush was a class about Educational Audiology taught by Dr. Dawn Violetto, also the Director of Audiology at Child’s Voice, and so she heard about all the exciting opportunities available to an Audiology extern at Child’s Voice. She applied and was excited to learn she was accepted.

When The Abnormal is Normal

Her one-year externship at Child’s Voice was the last stop during four years of a clinical doctoral program. During this she learned how to work with all ages of children, all devices including cochlear implants, hearing aids, bone anchored devices and remote microphones. She also learned the importance of Educational Audiology for children with hearing loss and learned how to put into practice the skills she had learned. Most importantly she learned how to advocate for those children.

To add to the stress of getting clinical experience, Lemajeur started at Child’s Voice in June 2020, making the abnormal her normal. Dealing with the strict COVID guidelines for interaction was difficult when explaining an already complex process of hearing tests, results, and next steps to parents. Audiology staff could just see one parent in person, she said. However, staff were creative and set up video chat with both parents. A couple of months in to her externship, Lemajeur says she felt like a Child’s Voice employee. Dr. Heather remembers the school children: “They would point to their ear and give me a thumbs up,” she recalls. “It was great to see them grow.” She knew it could be scary at first for kids to be in the Audiology testing room, “but they soon learn that we’re fun!”

“I am grateful that I learned so much from Dr. Dawn and Dr. Paige,” she says, and feels very confident as she starts her career as an independent clinician.

Hello Dr. Heather

Although Lemajeur did not start college expecting to be an Audiologist, she is part of a family trend of servicing pediatrics. Her sister graduated from Rush last year and is now a Speech-Language Pathologist who works with pediatric patients also. In June, Lemajeur started a position as a clinical audiologist at Mercyhealth in McHenry, Illinois. Child’s Voice was lucky to have her here during the last school year, and maybe families experiencing hearing loss may luck into Dr. Lemajeur along their way.