WashU audiologists promote equity in hearing health

Education Specialist Lauren Felton and audiology student Savanna Espinoza discuss how the Soundfield FM system can improve student hearing ability in the classroom.

The Division of Adult Audiology and Program in Audiology and Communication Sciences (PACS) at Washington University in St. Louis are taking hearing health services to where they can be most easily accessed – local schools.

The St. Louis region is well known for its abundant quality healthcare, but access to that care may be limiting for some patient populations.

headshot of Amanda Ortmann, PhD
Amanda Ortmann, PhD

Director of Audiology Amanda Ortmann, PhD, explained that families often find it difficult to accommodate outside medical appointments for children. One parent has to take off work; the child may need to miss school; and sometimes outside transportation needs to be arranged.

“The provision of routine hearing health services has historically been the responsibility of the local school districts, but many are now having trouble employing qualified educational audiologists,” she said. “That’s where we can help.”

The group is currently providing services to Francis Howell School District, and has a renewal contract under review with St. Joseph’s School for the Deaf. WashU audiologist and Education Specialist Lauren Felton spends two days each week with Francis Howell, educating teachers and ensuring hearing impaired children not only have the devices they need, but have them properly maintained.

“Serving the children of St. Louis is incredibly rewarding,” said Felton.

Education Specialist Lauren Felton

The arrangement benefits all parties. Schools receive clinical services; PACS garners service credit in the local community; and PACS students gain important experience in an educational audiology setting.

“It really is a win-win-win situation,” said Ortmann. “The experience for our students is something we can’t duplicate in the classroom.”

Talks are currently underway with other St. Louis school districts, including St. Louis Public Schools.

To learn more about educational audiology services, please contact Amanda Ortmann, PhD.