My name is Lindsay Cockburn and I’m a pediatric audiologist in Los Angeles, California. I was drawn to audiology because of my love of technology, solving interesting problems, and helping people in meaningful ways. About 8 months ago I started my blog Listen With Lindsay to make information about audiology, technology, and education more accessible. I saw a need for bite-sized amounts of information that parents could consume on their time that were written with them in mind. Kinda like when your kid gets a weird rash so you text your pediatrician friend, I want to be your (internet) audiologist friend.
In my current role I do hearing evaluations on kids birth-18 years old and diagnose kids with hearing loss. Hearing tests can only be done with direct contact with other people and while very important, they are not life sustaining so it was decided we would work from home. During this time I’ve worked on clinical protocols, created handouts for parents, written letters supporting grant proposals and fundraising efforts, and worked with my department to brainstorm how we can triage patients when we are back and see them in a safe and efficient way. I’ve also been able to complete tons of continuing education/live webinars that were created when all of the big in-person audiology conferences were cancelled. This has been a silver lining since I had wanted to attend more this year, but was having trouble justifying the cost of travel.
Next week I’ll be heading back to the clinic for the first time in nearly 2 months. Instead of my typical business casual attire I’ll be in scrubs and will wear Personal Protective Equipment in the form of masks, a face shield, and gloves. We will be using more rigorous infection control procedures and have even changed the rooms we do testing in to help minimize exposure. We will start with testing newborns that didn’t pass the newborn hearing screening which is the group that is most likely to have hearing loss. It will be an interesting adjustment trying to connect with families, build rapport, show empathy, and counsel them effectively with all of these barriers between us.
Masks make it more difficult for people with normal hearing to communicate, let alone people with hearing loss who are really struggling right now. More than 90% of kids with hearing loss are born to typically hearing parents and the newborn babies will (hopefully!) be sleeping as I’m testing their hearing. Even though the masks create a barrier for communication, it won’t be as much of a struggle as it will be when deaf and hard of hearing kids return to school and their teachers are wearing masks, for example.
The biggest change beyond the uniform and PPE will be that a significant portion of my co-workers will continue working from home. The preschool teachers, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Itinerant Teachers, Listening and Spoken Language Specialists, and Speech Language Pathologists will all be continuing to provide teletherapy for the kids from home. Missing them might be one of the hardest parts about returning right now- I LOVE my team and working with them is one of the best parts of my job!!
Some of the silver linings of this challenging time are that it is more clear than ever before just how important the work professionals do with deaf and hard of hearing children is. The skills to communicate effectively, use technology to connect, and advocate for yourself are critical right now. As a technology lover I’m happy this situation has created more awareness about the need for accessibility (i.e. captions) and for innovation in technology. I’m hoping this speeds up the software and technology developments needed to program hearing aids or cochlear implants remotely, for example. It also reminds me that creating this blog and being able to share functional, timely information with lots of people at once was so needed! I really hope these positive trends continue.
Lindsay Cockburn is a pediatric audiologist in Los Angeles, CA. She started her pediatric audiology blog Listen With Lindsay to make information about hearing, technology, and education more accessible to everyone. You can follow her on Instagram @ListenWithLindsay for more tips.
Hearing Impaired single mother and teacher aide at a hearing impaired oral preschool program. An author of "Turn The Lights On, I Cant Hear You".