OSU audiology clinic amplifies community impact
Tuesday, August 2, 2022
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Seven years ago, Dr. Trevor Courouleau left private practice and joined the Oklahoma State University Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic to make an impact on his community through the audiology clinic.
Since then, the clinic has grown to diagnose and provide treatment for hearing loss to newborns, children, adults and seniors in Stillwater and surrounding areas.
Seventy-five percent of the patients are adults with a concern for hearing loss or treatment with hearing aids. The other 25% are children who need tubes or are struggling in school academically, misunderstand speech or continually ask for words to be repeated more than normal.
“For most people, it's something they only do whenever something's wrong,” Courouleau said. “In general, if somebody is 40 or older, it is always a good idea as a baseline or a preventative measure to have a hearing test to see if they have any hearing loss. Untreated hearing loss is the No. 1 modifiable risk factor for dementia.”
Hearing loss for children is most likely going to affect their speech and language development, Courouleau said. The earlier they can be treated in the clinic, the better for their development long-term.
“We focus a lot on early identification, so we see people as soon as possible to diagnose hearing loss or a speech-language disorder,” Courouleau said. “Earlier intervention and treatment typically always provide better outcomes.”
Anyone can schedule a hearing test at the clinic to diagnose hearing loss. Then, Courouleau can talk them through treatment options if needed. The most common treatment option is hearing aids, he added.
The clinic offers multiple types of hearing aids that allow personalized prescriptions for each patient.
“After they have the hearing test, we'll take any measurements we need on their ears to actually order their prescription hearing aids and then see them back for a hearing aid fitting and follow-up,” Courouleau said.
For Courouleau, it’s rewarding to help people, particularly when activating the technology or assistive hearing device.
“I work with hearing aids as well as cochlear implants and bone-anchored implants. I get to be here and be the person that turns on the device,” Courouleau said. “You've probably seen videos online of activation of a cochlear implant where the baby or adult smiles when they hear sound for the first time. We have those kinds of appointments where we turn on the sound and give immediate volume and access to sound to the patient.”
This entire process happens on OSU’s campus in the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic.
OSU employees and retirees are eligible for free hearing screenings each semester through the Department of Wellness. During the fall semester, hearing screenings will be held on Sept. 23 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Veterans filing for compensation based on hearing loss or ringing in their ears from the military can be evaluated in the clinic as well.
Courouleau’s interest in audiology began when he was a child.
“I, growing up, had a lot of really severe ear infections, like way more than most kids have ear infections. I had seven different sets of tubes and a couple of surgeries,” Courouleau said.
“I went to see an audiologist all the time before and after my tubes to measure my hearing. I felt like that was fun because I took tests, played games, and got something from the treasure chest.”
Originally, Courouleau wanted a career as a sign language interpreter, but audiology ultimately became his choice due to his childhood experiences.
In addition to providing hearing health care, the clinic serves as a training and observation site for students who plan to pursue degrees in audiology and speech-language pathology.
Courouleau serves as a clinical associate professor for the OSU courses audiology diagnosis, audiology treatment, and audiology practicum, and audiology independent study.
“We offer an undergraduate degree in communication disorders, which is speech and hearing,” he said. “Sometimes I'll have undergrads in the clinic with me in a practicum that are wanting to maybe be an audiologist and get a graduate degree.”
Interested students can apply to do the audiology practicum where they shadow Courouleau in the clinic for a half-day each week.
“It's exciting to have students excited about what I'm doing, which helps me to stay excited about what I'm doing.”