The ASHA Leader, June 2015, Vol. 20, 22-24. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.20062015.22
An audiologist is on a mission to create the ideal hearing protection for firefighters—and to convince them to use it.
Shelley D. Hutchins
Name: Kathleen A. Romero, AuD, CCC-A
Title: Owner, Audiology Associates
Hometown: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Sirens scream as the truck roars down the road. Inside a burning building, a woman’s cries are barely audible in the thundering fire.
All of these sounds are common in the lives of firefighters. They have to discern those muffled cries and other subtler sounds like creaks from the shifting building or a fire’s change in intensity, while also subjecting their ears to blaring sirens and other loud and potentially damaging sounds.
That’s why it’s so important to protect their ability to hear, says audiologist Kathleen Romero, who’s made this issue a focus of her work in her Albuquerque-based private audiology practice. She launched her office a few years ago in the usual way—drumming up patients through word-of-mouth. Her surprising specialty developed through one of those word-of-mouth patients.
Even young members of this profession, which relies so heavily on deciphering different noises, experience abnormally high hearing loss.
Her then-receptionist, now partner, is married to a firefighter who referred several of his buddies. Romero quickly learned that even young members of this profession, which relies so heavily on deciphering different noises, experience abnormally high rates of hearing loss.
“I immediately wondered why they weren’t wearing their hearing protection,” Romero says. “They all receive disposable foam ear plugs, which work if they’re actually used, and used correctly, but patients kept telling me they didn’t wear them.”
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