Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
With a career spanning everything from private practice operation and educating future audiologists to being part of the early research that has shaped today’s digital hearing aid technology, to say Dr. Elizabeth Kennedy has immersed herself in the field of audiology would be an understatement.
After working as a clinical audiologist in a hospital-based program, she decided go back to school for her Ph.D. — all the while keeping her skills sharp by operating a small private practice. She continued working part time at the practice during her 17-year tenure as faculty for Temple University in Philadelphia until they phased out the audiology program in 2003, and she chose to become a full-time practitioner once again.
Fourteen years later, New Jersey-based Associates in Hearing HealthCare is flourishing, with locations in Barrington and Marlton where patients receive the benefit of her passion and unique experience.
Finding joy in changing lives
“I’ve had a very interesting, fascinating career path. I wish everyone entering the field could have as much fun as I have,” she said. The field of audiology is so broad and so interesting. I think hearing is the most fascinating of all the systems. It’s astonishing to me.”
Dr. Kennedy said her practice provides very patient-centric care for children and adults by a staff of providers who are committed to discovering each patient’s needs and obtaining the best outcome for them.
“We do it well because we, as clinicians, very much enjoy the process,” she explained. “It’s extremely gratifying to see someone start with difficulty and be able to move them to a place where they’re functioning much better and happier. The consistent thing I hear is ‘I should have done this years ago.’ That we repeatedly make a difference in a lot of people’s lives is the amazing thing.”
One of her patients, a hard-working man in his mid-40s with a home and family, scheduled an appointment with Associates in Hearing HealthCare when he felt his hearing loss was limiting his career opportunities. “He was misunderstanding instructions and not responding when he was spoken to,” Dr. Kennedy said. “He wanted to get the least costly hearing aids just to get by but we were able to refer him to Vocational Rehabilitation where he got what he needed. He went back to work and got a promotion. The decision to act on his difficulty was the turning point in his life. He’s more productive and happier, and his family is happier, too.”
Shaping the future of hearing care
Dr. Kennedy describes the progression from analog to digital hearing aids as a “watershed event,” one she was able to be a small part of as a graduate student at City University of New York (CUNY). While there, she worked on a grant-funded project to evaluate various parameters in hearing. “It was the foundation work for digital hearing,” she remembers, “and everybody in the program was focused in the same general direction. I can look at hearing aids today and see that the foundation of many algorithms in use today came from that lab.”
And while she believes patients today are much more likely to have their hearing loss treated than they were ten years ago, she says they’ve also become more impatient.
“As baby boomers mature and become a more common patient, they bring in a different value system than their parents,” she said. “They seem to be more interested in having things fixed. Their parents were more able to accept what God gave them. With that value shift has come a sophistication for technology and application. Every year, something new comes along. Translating those changes to our patients is an interesting, positive challenge.”
She admits costs associated with purchasing the best hearing device for the hearing loss can be out of reach for many patients; however, she doesn’t want that to deter people from treating their hearing loss.
“If people are curious, they should contact their local provider,” she said, noting that her staff work with vocational rehabilitation and insurance providers to obtain the best outcome for each patient. “Educating yourself on a site like Healthy Hearing is critical. Once you’ve gotten a certain level of education, it requires action. Even if you think your hearing loss is a minor problem and no big deal, baseline testing is critical so you know how quickly things are changing and don’t wind up with a surprise. To move to action is the best thing you can do.”
While Dr. Kennedy’s office may not be close to your home, it is likely there is a caring, dedicated hearing healthcare professional near you. If you think you have hearing loss or wish to help someone you love, visit our extensive directory of providers. You can get practice information and read reviews from other consumers before you make the call.