Erie Audiology | Hearing Center Interview
Allison Keenan, MS, CCC-A, FAAA initially began working as a psychologist, but when her first job wasn't a "good fit" and her grandmother began having severe hearing difficulties, she decided to go back to school. "I wanted to be the one in my family to facilitate the help my grandmother needed," she said, "and an audiology program was just ramping up at a nearby university. It was a logical progression for me."
Following graduation, Keenan worked for a public health hospital near the Mexican border before returning to Pennsylvania to lead an audiology program at an acute care hospital. When a group of ear, nose and throat physicians recruited her to work with them, she spent the next 12 years using new procedures to work with a myriad of disorders and problems before deciding to go into private practice.
"I feel really fortunate that my career path has given me such diverse opportunities," she said. "Along the way, with the onset of managed care, I began to feel that the environment and restrictions placed on my time with patients was detrimental to the level of care I could provide. In private practice, I could set the pace, tone and level of personalized service that's important for the majority of the patients I serve."
That was the impetus behind Erie Audiology, a hearing center practice that attracts patients from a 50-60 mile radius, where the focus is an individualized effort to help each patient achieve their hearing potential.
"I feel philosophically that folks with hearing loss have a specific set of barriers and obstacles to move through in academic settings, employment options, social circles and family situations," Keenan said. “Everything is colored by the hearing difficulties they are experiencing. In private practice, I can really take the time to know these patients and their specific needs and goals. That wasn't available to me when I was working for someone else. I see fewer patients during the day, but I can provide a level of quality that gives me a lot of personal reward. And my patients value this time, as well."
Keenan said her favorite part of being a hearing healthcare practitioner is getting to know the history of the patient and the problems they are having because of their hearing loss. "I never know who's going to walk through my door next," she said. "I love that my first appointment may be a guy coming in with dirt on his boots from the farm and the second may be a CEO from a downtown corporation."
Her favorite hearing device success story occurred with a 30-year-old, non-verbal, severely developmentally disabled woman who was accompanied by her caseworker from a local nonprofit organization. "In the course of working with this woman, I detected that she had a severe hearing loss that had never been diagnosed before," Keenan said. "Once we introduced hearing devices and she went through hearing rehabilitation and speech pathology, they concluded that perhaps she wasn't as developmentally delayed as they had originally thought. Although at 30 years of age the level of intervention we could provide was minimal, she was able to start learning rudimentary speech and become socially engaged. She took to sound very well. Within weeks, her hearing aids were the first things she reached for because she realized how rewarding and reinforcing it was for her to be able to connect."
Keenan said the most significant change in hearing technology she's encountered is the ability for hearing aids to connect with today's technology. "Now we can allow them to take and make phone calls hands free and understand every word," she said. "The technology allows them to hear better with adapters in the church and classroom. People love the feeling of being totally in the loop."
In addition to helping patients hear better, the Erie Audiology personnel conducts public "lunch and learns" on various topics through community service organizations. They also participate in local health fairs and publish articles in a local senior newspaper. "I feel privileged to be in the area," Keenan said. "Erie isn't so big that it's hard to get recognition of who we are and what we stand for. We have a good community response and I enjoy that very much."