Audiology Student’s Hearing Loss Journey Leads to Career

04032018_Sal-TEI_114.JPGWith an infectious personality, fierce determination and a zest for life, Dayle Paustian ‘21AUD is not one to let an obstacle stand in her way – as a result, her personal experience with hearing loss has fueled her passion to become an audiologist.

Paustian is a second year student in the University’s Osborne College of Audiology (OCA), but her hearing loss journey began at birth.

“I was born deaf, but at the time, newborn hearing screenings weren’t mandated whereas now that would be the first indication for parents that something could be wrong,” she said.

A few short years later, at the age of three, Paustian was diagnosed with profound hearing loss in both ears and fitted with her first pair of hearing aids. However, with profound hearing loss, the inner ear is so compromised that amplification using hearing aids is of limited use. It was only a matter of time before Paustian and her family had to look for a more permanent solution.

Paustian’s mom was introduced to the idea of a cochlear implant – a surgical prosthesis in the inner ear – and so Paustian received her first cochlear implant in her right ear at age seven and in her left ear at age 14.

“With the cochlear implants, I was finally able to get a great quality of sound - it’s improved my speech and has helped me a lot with my education,” she said.

04032018_Sal-TEI_123.JPGOnce a patient herself, Paustian is now working to become an audiologist and work with patients like her in the future. She is currently assigned to a rotation at the Pennsylvania Ear Institute (PEI),  the Audiology program’s on-campus clinical learning facility.

It’s the early exposure and hands-on experience – especially related to the clinic - about the program that Paustian likes. As early as the first semester, students observe at PEI, and by their second semester, they practice hands-on skills and conduct basic hearing tests on patients. Students then have a one year externship in their fourth and final year of study.

“I was exposed to the field of audiology from my personal experience but now I’m gaining clinical skills and a scientific understanding of how it all works together,” she said.

At PEI, Paustian has the opportunity to work with patients of all ages and with varying degrees of hearing loss. And, while she hasn’t officially decided on a specialty, she feels most connected with the pediatric population. “As healthcare professionals, we strive to be empathetic and personally I know firsthand what it’s like. When I have the chance, I visit my speech school back home to talk to the children and their parents,” said Paustian. “They look at me and have hope. They can see that being deaf does not have to limit them from accomplishing their goals.”