Audiology students create program to help older adults manage hearing loss

By Jill Pease

posed group of five students
Second-year audiology students Danielle Hovsepian, Heather Starr, Amanda Prozeralik, Amber Gerasimchik and Emily Brown at one of the aural rehabilitation program’s weekly sessions.

Hearing loss in adults is associated with social isolation and increased risk of anxiety and depression. Aural rehabilitation programs can help combat these issues by offering education to help patients improve communication and continue participating in the activities important to them.

Yet, aural rehabilitation programs are relatively rare and many adults with hearing loss do not have access to the training and support these programs provide. A group of University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions students recently demonstrated that with minimal resources, providers can offer meaningful aural rehabilitation training for their patients.

Amanda Prozeralik, a second-year Doctor of Audiology student in the UF PHHP department of speech, language, and hearing sciences, learned about aural rehabilitation in a class she took last summer. Intrigued by aural rehabilitation’s benefits, including improvements in quality of life, Prozeralik wanted to put what she learned into action.

“I was inspired by this course and wanted to create an opportunity for myself and my peers to be involved in providing these important services to those in our community,” she said.

Prozeralik consulted with Hollea Ryan, Ph.D., Au.D., UF PHHP audiology program director, to formulate a plan for approaching a clinical site where the program could be offered. Aural rehabilitation is viewed as best practice in hearing health care, but is rarely offered in clinical settings, Ryan said.

“Aural rehabilitation programs are known to provide useful training and confidence-building for attendees; however, due to a lack of reimbursement, and busy schedules, most clinics don’t offer much, if any, aural rehabilitation for their patients,” Ryan said.

Prozeralik found a partner in Al Turri, Au.D., director of audiology at The Villages Health, where Prozeralik had recently completed a clinical rotation. Under the guidance of Ryan, Turri and Emily Gaines, Au.D., UF PHHP coordinator of clinical education, Prozeralik and fellow members of the UF Student Academy of Audiology developed a six-week aural rehabilitation course for The Villages Health’s patients. Topics included communication strategies, clear speech methods, stress reduction techniques, tinnitus, hearing assistive technology, hearing protection, self-advocacy and travel tips.

Each session consisted of lecture-style teaching, in addition to group activities and discussion questions to help participants apply the lessons to real-life practice. Participants were encouraged to share their experiences, allowing them to build community with each other, Prozeralik said.

“Though it was a small group each week, I think this helped encourage our participants to open up about their experiences,” she said. “I was pleasantly surprised to find this out, as I believe it impacted our participants for the better, through providing validation of the struggles they experience and finding comradery in others who experience the same things.”

This uniquely student-developed and student-led aural rehabilitation program has received excellent reviews. Prozeralik and the other students argue that if they can create and deliver an aural rehabilitation program with their limited resources, it is feasible for providers to offer such programs with minimal cost and time.

As incoming president of UF’s Student Academy of Audiology, Prozeralik plans to work with the group’s service chair, Brittney Moore, to offer the course in the fall at another location.

Comments like these from participants have motivated the team to continue to provide aural rehabilitation for more area patients:

“It was truly beneficial that this class was offered in my area,” a participant said. “In the beginning, I was frustrated and overwhelmed with my hearing loss. I now know there is lots of technology and support groups to improve my situation, both physically (hearing devices) and mentally with emotional support (in my area and online). I’m now more accepting and optimistic for the future of hearing loss being led by these passionate new audiologists!”