When I finally completed my AuD at the Univ. of Florida-Gainesville in August, the occasion was right up there with the birth of my children and my wedding day. I began the distance learning program to earn my AuD for three reasons:
I had always wanted a doctoral degree and had, in fact, started PhD programs at two different universities. On both occasions, moving out-of-state caused a change in plans. At that point in my career, I had worked for several ENTs, had been employed in two hospitals and had peaked in terms of salary. It concerned me that, as I moved from state-to-state and took on different positions, I would often report to people who had less experience than me but had more longevity at that particular institution. I felt that a PhD (and later the AuD) would differentiate me and better prepare me for whatever the future might bring.
I was 50 years old. Going back to school wouldnt get any easier with age. I knew that, if I waited longer, Id be looking more towards retirement and might lose the impetus.
I love this profession and I wanted to become even better at it.
I chose the Univ. of Florida because it is a top -25 school and is regarded as a premiere research institution. It also had its meetings every eight weeks at a nearby location (Chicago), and had nine courses that I was interested in taking. Most importantly, those who taught the courses were leaders in their fields. The university also provided hands-on supplements to the coursework every eight weeks, and the faculty who ran these programs were accessible, enlightened and practicing audiologists in the specific fields they taught.
There is no question that it is difficult to maintain full-time employment while pursuing the AuD. For example, I had four audiologists and a licensed hearing instrument specialist on my office staff during those 18 months, so I worked a compressed 40-hour week Monday-Thursday then studied Friday and Sunday. I often studied at the library so that home responsibilities couldnt pull at me. The amount of required reading was considerable, and I found the tests to be very difficult.
In spite of the hard work involved, I strongly encourage all audiologists to obtain their AuD, as it will be seen as the ticket for the future. I feel much more confident in every aspect of my practice. Additionally, my patients are also more empowered. From helping them deal with the ramifications of hearing loss, to teaching them better communication strategies, to assisting them in the management of their balance problemsit is all done differently now. And that is subsequent to my naive thinking that 27 years of experience and multiple ACE and AAA scholar awards were sufficient.
There are several other practical benefits that Ive experienced since obtaining an AuD. In the last two years, I have argued and helped win several casesall of which required specialized information that needs to be replenished over a lifetime. In one case, the insurance company took my testimony over that of an ENTs. In my opinion, it would have been a different contest if I had not had a doctoral degree in audiology. In another case regarding noise-induced hearing loss, I was able to document that a manufacturing plant exceeded Federal guidelines for noise exposure.
Recent information from the Audiology Foundation of America (AFA) suggests that the median income following the first two years in practice is $67,100 for AuD audiologists compared to $34,292 for masters-degreed audiologists. However, the AuD (and the PhD) degree in audiology isnt necessarily about the money or about gaining the title of doctor; its about the increased abilities that come with improving ones knowledge base, securing and even broadening professional status and providing increased value and care to the patients we serve.
Linda S. Remensnyder, AuD, is president and owner of Hearing Associates, P.C., a private practice with offices located in Libertyville and Gurnee, IL, and a board member of the Audiology Foundation of America. Correspondence can be addressed to Linda Remensnyder, 755 S. Milwaukee Ave., Ste. 189, Libertyville, IL 60048; email: [email protected].