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From Career Fair to Caring for Family: My Journey to Becoming an Audiologist


Theresa McVea, Audiologist, Horizon's Saint John Regional Hospital 

During a career fair in Grade 8, I was introduced to audiology and invited to job shadow at the hospital audiology department.  Impressed by how enthusiastic they were about their work, becoming an audiologist became my career goal.

On the first day of my Master's program at Dalhousie University I was a wreck while introducing myself because I had been accepted into the program before completing my undergraduate degree. However, since I helped some aunts and uncles with their hearing loss concerns, perhaps those in charge of admissions  felt t I had some level of experience to build on.

Fast forward to 2011 when my 14-year-old-son, a musician and great student, shadowed me for Take Our Kids to Work Day at Horizon's Saint John Regional Hospital. I tested his hearing and, like any mother, was unimpressed with him when he pretended to have a hearing loss.

I was even less impressed when I realized he was not pretending.

At first we switched test rooms, thinking the equipment was broken.

Unable to deny the truth, I blamed myself as a parent and audiologist for not enforcing hearing protection when in music and for overlooking what had happened.

Patients often replay the emotional drive home after an appointment of unexpected news. I experienced that shock firsthand and on that long drive home tried to pretend it was no big deal as I offered consolation to my son.

We surmised that his hearing loss was from a bout of meningitis when he was 7 weeks old. He began wearing hearing aids soon after the diagnosis. Since then, he has had a successful four-year music career touring the country, had an article about his hearing loss experience published in Canadian Audiologist, and is currently a song publisher with Chorus Entertainment and a Dalhousie University student. 

He has given me better insight into hearing aids, especially for musicians, and more respect for parents' initial feelings when given unexpected news: denial, grief, and self-blame. It has improved my counselling skills tremendously and provided me an education not found in any textbook.

After 25 years in audiology, I'm still enlightened by my patients every day. Firstly, the hearing loss of my older family members is not only the same pattern as that of my sister and brother, but also to my son's hearing loss. Secondly, family history is a factor that no one can predict until it truly is "history.". And finally, my son intends to also pursue a degree in audiology - a career path he may not have chosen were it not for his firsthand experience as an audiology patient.  

This fall I readily took on the responsibility as Audiology Lead for Horizon. It is possible, like that first day in my Master's program, that once again those in charge feel I have some level of experience to impart professionally while personally, I feel the need to continue to share the enthusiasm for audiology that I was first exposed to by my former colleagues at Career Fair back in 1984.

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