Brae McDougald, M.A., CCC-A, was a junior at the University of Utah and thinking about majoring in English Literature when she read the description for an entry level class in speech pathology, language and audiology. The rest, as they say, is history.
“I loved everything about it. I couldn’t get enough,” she said, explaining that her natural interests in the medical aspects of the profession prompted her to choose audiology as a field of study. “It’s really well suited to my personality because I like to help people and make a difference.”
McDougald graduated from the University of Texas in 2004 and began working as an audiologist in January, 2005. She is a certified member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and a fellow member of the Texas Academy of Audiology (TAA). She joined Parkway ENT and Allergy in Katy, Texas in August, 2013.
Dr. David Sycamore, M.D., allergist and board certified otolaryngologist, works alongside McDougald. “This is the first time I’ve worked in a place where we’ve had a medical professional on site and I really enjoy it,” McDougald said. “If Dr. Sycamore treats someone medically and realizes they need a hearing test, I’m right here. The same is true if I give someone a hearing test and suspect they have a medical condition. I like that we can take care of people’s hearing and ear health all in one place.”
Yet as much as the hearing center Parkway ENT and Allergy does for their patients, McDougald wishes they could do more. “Sometimes it’s frustrating because we are limited with what we can do for people with profound hearing loss,” she said. “Medically and technologically, we don’t know how to fix a damaged hearing nerve yet. You want to fix everything, but you just can’t.”
McDougald understands the challenge hearing healthcare professionals face. “Audiologists are fighting for our place in the healthcare spectrum,” she said, “We aren’t physicians and yet are very qualified to identify and treat hearing loss. In addition, insurance companies don’t always want to cover the cost of hearing aids, so sometimes you have to work hard to help your patients get the best care.”
One of McDougald’s favorite success stories involves a veteran who was extremely withdrawn and depressed. His daughter, an audiologist in another state, encouraged him to get his hearing tested. “Once we fit him for hearing devices, he was happy and smiling and the relationship between him and his wife improved greatly – which I was happy to see because she was so patient and supporting.”
“You read about the psychology of untreated hearing loss and he was a textbook case. He could be the poster child for how much hearing aids can improve your quality of life.”
McDougald said open fit hearing aids are one of the biggest improvements she’s seen since she started working in the field. “Now you have your receiver in the ear and your microphone behind the ear,” she said. “This technology provides the most natural hearing experience available today.”
Even when she’s not working, McDougald finds herself giving hearing advice to neighbors and friends. “It’s my profession, but it’s personal for me, too. I love what I do.”