Like all of us, the question of “What do you do?” comes up regularly. When I say, “I’m an audiologist,” I often get blank looks. As all audiologists know, there usually needs to be a tag line. My tag line generally goes something like this, “I take care of people with hearing loss.” It’s getting better…I had to bring out my tag line nearly every single time when I started 30 years ago. Now, I’m guessing it’s only 40% of the time but I’m suspicious that some of those in the 60% are faking it :-).
The next questions are often: “How did you get into that? Was your family in that field? Do you have a family member with hearing loss?” No, I don’t have family members with hearing loss; Dad sold cars and Mom was a nurse. My unremarkable story is that I was looking to fill a slot in my schedule as a sophomore in college at Ohio University and a friend was taking a Hearing and Speech Sciences class. I signed up, enjoyed it and 3 degrees later, here I am…a licensed audiologist with 30 years of experience. I heard it said once that you don’t have a “real” profession until your children want to follow in their parent’s footsteps. We all know families of lawyers and physicians.
As I’m sure many of my colleagues will echo, hearing care is not an easy road to take, this being particularly true of those of us who choose to be in private practice. Running a business is serous business. When your “business” lives or dies on diagnostic services that are not highly reimbursed or directly available to the public at large, that’s tough. When the economic viability depends on a treatment protocol that NO ONE wants…well, what we have chosen as our life’s work is really, really hard.
While my personal story may is not remarkable, I married into a family with a rich tradition in hearing care. Our family history includes both manufacturing as well as private practice. Family history includes hearing aid dispensers as well as audiologists. Family history includes the passing of the torch to subsequent generations.
When I was an undergrad at Ohio University, I took classes from grad students, several of whom went on to be university professors. One of our children was taking her first course in Communication Disorders at a California university where the professor was taking roll on the first day. He called her name, “Chelsea Diles?” The professor acknowledged her presence and pensively paused. He then said, “Diles…are you related to Bill Diles of Athens Ohio by any chance?” Chelsea proudly responded with, “That’s my Papa!” Her teacher had been earning his PhD and had been one of my teachers. This was back in the days that Chelsea’s grandfather was the very well respected hearing aid dispenser in Athens, Ohio. Professor McCaffrey didn’t remember me, of course, but he did remember my father-in-law fondly.
Chelsea, along with her brother, are actually the 5th generation of the Diles family to enter hearing care. There must be something about this work that motivates each of us to enter and remain in hearing care.
Those of us in direct patient care experience moments where what we are trained to do is extremely meaningful and rewarding. But those are mere moments…moments that need to sustain a career.
Fortunately for us, those moments are powerful enough to create lasting motivation; powerful enough to keep us going for decades with enough enthusiasm to inspire the next generation. This short video of a child experiencing a newly installed hearing loop is the kind of thing that keeps us going.