Outreach Opportunity Takes Audiology Students to Guatemala

“Refreshing,” said Benjamin Thompson ’18. “Incredible,” said Eun “Rudi” Kim ’18. “Joyful,” said Susanna Marshall ’18. The experience of providing hearing health care to patients in rural Guatemala impacted each of the three doctor of audiology students in a unique way. Pacific’s audiology program partnered with Entheos Audiology Cooperative to send a team of 30 volunteers, including audiologists and audiology students, to Panajachel, Guatemala.

“It’s my first time in Guatemala and I didn’t really know what to expect,” Kim said. “So, I came here with an open mind. It’s a beautiful country and people are so receptive. I just feel really grateful to be here; to be part of this team.”

Marshall also expressed gratitude at having the opportunity to work with this team. She elaborates, “Every single one of the audiologists on this trip are amazing. Each one of them brings different skills and different knowledge. They are all incredible teachers as well. […] It was an honor to be able to work with them as a student; to be given that opportunity.”

Entheos is committed to taking hearing health care to patients who otherwise would not have access to these services. Their international outreach has included sending teams of volunteers to Haiti, Jordan and Zambia. Marshall shares, “For some of the individuals we helped, some of the children for example, we gave them the chance to learn spoken language that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. The joy on their faces was really obvious. Even though there is a language barrier, to see them smile when they could hear with the hearing aids, that says it all and there are no words needed for that.” Thompson adds, “There’s a lot to smile about.”

For Thompson, the trip reinforced that there is a marriage of art and science in the profession of audiology. He explains, “There is a science of what we do and there is an art of what we do. Each professional brings their own artistic perspective and way that they approach communication or a hearing aid fitting. They all reach very similar end goal. It’s nice to realize that there truly is an art in this profession and there is an art in the sciences.”

Kim, Marshall and Thompson are thankful for all the support that made this trip possible. Marshall adds, “Thank you to University of the Pacific for all your support and the training you’ve given me.”


Pacific’s Hearing and Balance Center Collaborates with Stockton Civic Theater

deans-letter-audiology-hearing-aidsThe lights dim, the curtain rises, the music begins to play — it is the sights and sounds that make going to the theater an unforgettable experience. Imagine if you had difficulty hearing the music or the actors and how that would impact your experience. The Pacific Hearing and Balance Center has collaborated with the Stockton Civic Theatre to make the theater experience more enjoyable for community members that use hearing aids by refurbishing the theatre’s telecoil sound system.

“We have many patients who attend plays or musicals at the Stockton Civic Theatre and they could not hear well due to the acoustic of the space,” said Gail Amornpongchai, AuD, FAAA, C-AAA, clinical director of audiology. “We called Stockton Civic Theatre and found out they had the loop, but it had been turned off for many years as the system had interfered with the sound of one of the shows. When they tried to turn it back on, they discovered the company who had installed the loop had gone out of the business. We found another company who came to install the new amplifier and made sure everything worked well.”

“A hearing loop, or telecoil loop, is a sound system that magnetically transmits the signal to hearing aids,” explains Dr. Amornpongchai. “The hearing loop brings sound directly from the sound system of the theatre to the patient’s hearing aids, similar to a Bluetooth headset. This allows the wearer to have direct access to sounds in the presence of room reverberation and background noise, which can improve their understanding of speech.”

Sound reverberates in rooms with high ceilings, which makes auditoriums challenging environments for those who use hearing aids. “A hearing loop consists of a loop of cable which is placed around a designated area, usually a room, auditorium, theatre or church. The cable generates a magnetic field throughout the looped space which can be picked up by a hearing aid that is compatible with telecoil. Patients who have hearing aids should consult with their audiologists to see if their hearing aids have telecoil and if the telecoil is activated.”

Dr. Amornpongchai believes that it is important for everyone to understand the challenges that individuals with hearing impairments face so that as a community we can help create inclusive environments. She elaborates, “The main factors that affect hearing are distance between the speaker and the listener, background noise and reverberation. Some people think that hearing aids will solve everything and that is not true. Therefore, the community needs to provide accommodations for those who have hearing impairments. This includes modifying the acoustics in restaurants or churches by installing carpet or installing sound-absorbing materials on the walls or ceiling. Also, we can educate servers to seat people close to the wall, or in less noisy areas, when requested or sponsor a telecoil loop in public places.”

Doctor of audiology student Cheryl A. Linton ’19, MS had the opportunity to assist Dr. Amornpongchai with the process of refurbishing the hearing loop at Stockton Civic Theatre. Linton shares, “Audiology is a hands-on profession; I can learn all about hearing aids and telecoils in a book or through a lecture, but handling and operating devices gives me a much more thorough and personal understanding of what my patients have to live with on a daily basis.”

Linton explains the importance of experiential learning for students training to become audiologists. “In order for us to serve our patients well, we have to become capable, confident and competent practitioners in our field,” Linton said. “Pacific’s faculty and facilities in Stockton and San Francisco are second to none. Within the first few weeks we began interacting with patients, while being precepted by experienced faculty and clinical audiologists. Our rigorous two-year classwork in science, technology, speech and language development, business practices and other topics continues as we begin our internships. The internships are in hospitals, private practice clinics and medical offices throughout the Bay Area. They provide us with a breadth of experience with patients of all ages and in all situations. The education and ‘real world’ training I’m getting through Pacific will give me the knowledge and the skills I need to have in order to serve my future patients well.”

To learn more about Pacific’s AuD program go to pacific.edu/aud

To learn more about Pacific’s audiology clinics go to upacifichearing.com

Hearing and Balance Center, Stockton Campus
757 Brookside Rd
Stockton, CA 95211

Hearing and Balance Center, San Francisco Campus
155 Fifth St
San Francisco, CA 94103



Faculty Spotlight: Kenneth D. Billheimer, AuD

deans_letter_ken_billheimer“There is very little I have not seen clinically,” said Kenneth D. Billheimer, AuD. Between time spent as the owner of a private practice and working as an audiologist for the U.S. Army he has seen first-hand hearing loss from a wide range of causes.

Dr. Billheimer is a clinical instructor for Pacific’s doctor of audiology (AuD) program and an audiologist at the Hearing and Balance Center in San Francisco. Dr. Billheimer earned his bachelor of arts in communication disorders and a master of science in audiology from California State University, Fresno. He earned a doctor of audiology from Arizona School of Health Sciences.

What led you to pursue a career in audiology?
Dr. Billheimer: “It was purely by accident. In my studies, I took undergraduate audiology classes and developed a great interest in hearing and hearing rehabilitation. The next thing I knew I had taken all of the possible undergraduate courses in audiology, so graduate school was the next choice.”

What led you to join the Pacific faculty as a clinical instructor?
Dr. Billheimer: “When I sold and ‘retired’ from private practice, I knew I would need to find a purpose for what was left in life. I engaged a colleague of mine who has left the profession and is a career coach. She coached and counseled me into the next chapter. During this time, as fate would have it, I shared a cab at a national conference to my hotel. Dr. Rupa Balachandran and I sat next to each other. We talked about the Pacific audiology program and agreed to meet later that summer. The rest is history.”

For nearly 30 years you were the owner of a private practice, Hearing Science of Pleasanton. How does this background help you as you train Pacific’s audiology students?
Dr. Billheimer: “I bring to the faculty at Pacific a business acumen that will help the students I teach see the non-academic side of audiology practice.”

What are the greatest rewards and challenges of training AuD students?
Dr. Billheimer: “The greatest challenge and joy is working with a generation of students who are two generations younger than I am. Although I am in an academic environment, my experience is in the private sector as an audiologist and a businessman. I find myself buried in the same books that the student use for all their classes. I need to be prepared to answer challenging questions from bright students.”

What do you find most rewarding about working with audiology students?
Dr. Billheimer: “They are so excited to make a difference in the world. In teaching audiology as a clinical instructor, I get the greatest joy in passing on to the students my years of clinical experience from private practice, working in a teaching hospital with ear, nose and throat (ENT) residents, industrial audiology and other medical center practice settings.”

What notable changes to the profession have you witnessed over the course of your career?
Dr. Billheimer: “One of the most profound changes in audiology is early identification of hearing loss. Today identification is close to birth with the use of a tool called otoacoustic emissions. This inexpensive procedure is administered in the hospital by putting a small tip in the infant’s ear and doing a test that lasts a few minutes; it is not at all invasive. Also, we now have very sophisticated digital hearing aids and cochlear implants. All populations benefit from this technology and the success rate is the best it has ever been.”

In what ways did your experiences in the U.S. Army and the U.S. Army Reserve impact how you approach your profession as an audiologist?
Dr. Billheimer: “At one time audiologists did not fit hearing aids, it was considered unethical. In the military audiologists did everything, including fitting hearing aids. We were familiar with hearing aids long before the rest of audiology. My first Army experience was in a hospital that supported a division of 15,000 soldiers attached to a mechanized infantry group. I spent time in tanks and near large weapons measuring their sound levels. The second part of my Army experience was in a teaching hospital with residents in ENT. It impacted my career in identification and treatment of noise induced hearing loss. It gave me a compassion and understanding of the grief that an individual experiences as a result of losing his or her hearing as a result of a single incident. When I see a veteran in my clinic I have a sense of where they have been and the type of noise and other exposures they may have had.”

What are your hobbies?
Dr. Billheimer: “My greatest love is my garden. I love wildflowers and have a large garden; if it’s not raining or really cold I am outside in the yard. I love classic cars. I have a completely restored 1961 Nash Metropolitan convertible.”




Introducing Pacific’s Chapter of the Student Academy of Audiology

SAA-groupFrom the beginning the School’s faculty and students set a precedent for establishing chapters of professional organizations soon after programs were launched. The doctor of audiology (AuD) program continued in this tradition when Pacific’s chapter of the Student Academy of Audiology (SAA) was formed in November 2015, only a few months after the program launched. “The Student Academy of Audiology brings together students who have a passion for audiology,” said Veronica Koo ’18. “The goals of SAA are to provide a means for students to become more involved in the profession, encourage them to advocate for the rights of audiologists, promote leadership and mentorship and provide networking opportunities between students and professionals.”

The SAA is the national student division of the American Academy of Audiology (the Academy), which is the largest professional organization in the field of audiology. In essence, the SAA is a nationwide network of students. “SAA provides a place for students to interact and bond over their passion for audiology,” shares Koo. “In class students learn about best practices as audiologists and all the technical information we need to know to be the most effective and skilled audiologists that we can be. Through SAA, we are connected to fellow students across the nation who have the same enthusiasm for audiology. We learn about what other students are doing to help the growth of our profession and it encourages us to find our own way to give back to our field and the communities we serve.”

Sharing Pacific’s core value of community involvement the Academy advocates for SAA chapters to organize and participate in community outreach programs. “Local SAA chapters are encouraged to provide audiology services to their communities, which also brings greater awareness of the profession and the importance of our hearing,” said Koo. She emphasizes the importance of AuD students engaging with the community. She explains, “Many people are unaware of the profession of audiology and in turn are unaware of the importance of preserving one’s hearing.”

Outreach programs are beneficial to both the community and to students. Koo shares, “After learning how to diagnose and treat patients in the classroom, we truly learn how our knowledge can provide specific care when going out into the community and learning about the needs of those who would benefit from our services. Educating the community helps students solidify the knowledge obtained in class and develops empathetic audiologists who are more intimately aware of the population that they will serve in the near future.”

Pacific’s chapter of SAA has partnered with Entheos Audiology Cooperative . Entheos is a member-owned cooperative that believes it is a privilege to have the opportunity to provide hearing healthcare services. Their mission is to share their time and talent in parts of the world where audiology services are not readily available. According to Koo, “We are currently working towards sending students to locations such as Guatemala, Jordan, Mozambique, Zambia, Haiti and more. Students will be fitting donated hearing aids on children and adults who are unable to afford these devices and do not have access to audiology services in their country.”

To learn more about the SAA go to saa.audiology.org.



Inaugural Doctor of Audiology White Coat Ceremony

80% Science and 20% Art

Over 120 faculty, staff, family and friends came to witness the momentous occasion of the 23 doctor of audiology students receiving their white coats. The ceremony on September 28, 2015, ushered the inaugural class into the next step of their educational journey. Audiology Program Director Rupa Balachandran, PhD, explained the significance by saying, “White coats are symbolic of the professionalism that is expected of students in all clinical professions. This ceremony reaffirms the community’s support of the educational process that prepares future health care professionals for practice. The White Coat placed on each of our future audiologists today is more than a just a lab coat – it is a cloak of competence, caring and community.”

Pacific’s doctor of audiology program, located at San Francisco Campus, is a new program in the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. It is one of four accelerated programs in the country and the only one in California. Its clinics, Pacific Hearing and Balance Centers in San Francisco and Stockton, along with anticipated collaborations with many Northern California medical and audiology centers, provide students with clinical experience and residencies.

deans_letter_fall15__Audiology-WCC_walking_webKim Lody, President of ReSound, served as the event’s keynote speaker. She emphasized the level of commitment required to succeed in this emerging field. Lody explained, “It will require that you stretch yourselves and reach for new levels of understanding in physiology, technology, and the psychology of helping others. You’ll learn new skills, techniques and new ways of interacting with people. And you’ll do that through a fresh, progressive program designed not only with the current health care environment in mind, but more importantly, with a focus on the future of audiology.”

She drew a comparison between audiology and art. She believes, “Audiology is 80% science and 20% art.” Further, “It requires that you read people so you can identify their true needs […]. Being an audiologist, just like being an artist, requires genuine curiosity about the world around you and the devotion to capture moments.”

In his address Dean Oppenheimer also correlated art and audiology with an anecdote about the sculptor Michelangelo. “The profession of Audiology is founded on precision and detail. You must understand that attention to detail will make a difference. In patient care, we can expect nothing less than greatness.”

In his welcome Dean Oppenheimer told the students “You are joining a wonderful family today, the Pacific Audiology family. The lofty status of the School is due to the academic quality of our students, their subsequent success as alumni, and the commitment to excellence of our faculty.” Dean Oppenheimer stressed the importance of shifting focus away from one’s grades and toward one’s patients. He said, “You are studying so that daily you will make positive interventions in your patient’s care.”

deans_letter_fall15_audiology_wcc_group_webThe event held special significance as these 23 individuals are trailblazers, both for the University of the Pacific and for the state of California. Touching on the world of opportunity that is open to these future professionals Lody gave some examples of the abundant opportunities that audiology offers. “Whether it’s an app to help manage tinnitus, a feature to geotag settings to a favorite coffee shop environment, or a multitude of biometric data and personalized interaction, there’s so much more to be discovered, developed and deployed to help people with hearing loss.”

Lody left the students with a challenge to take the time to reflect on the significance of this event and to ask themselves, “How will you utilize the trust that is placed in you by the patients seeking your help and expertise? Will you dedicate yourself to the art of helping others capture those moments that, for them, have been to that point in time, unnoticed, unrecognized and unheard?”

See more photos from the event at https://flic.kr/s/aHskpt1h46.

For more information about Pacific’s doctor of audiology program visit pacific.edu/aud. To schedule a visit to the San Fransisco campus please http://bit.ly/AuDinfosession.


Faculty Spotlight: Gabriella Musacchia, PhD

Gabriella Musacchia resizedAs a professional trumpet player, Gabriella Musacchia, PhD, became interested in psychobiology of music which led her to study how live music changes the way people perceived a song. Recently, Dr. Musacchia joined the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology as an assistant professor. She received her bachelor of arts in psychobiology from University of California, Santa Cruz and her doctor of philosophy in communication sciences and disorders from Northwestern University.

“I chose to focus in audiology and communication sciences and disorders because I became fascinated not only with music, but with the physics of sound and speech, and how these signals are transposed from the pinna to the cortex,” said Dr. Musacchia.

Dr. Musacchia joined Pacific for its excellence in professional education and she is “impressed by the commitment of the department and school administration to further that goal.” She plans to use an individualized approach to curriculum and assessment to prepare future audiologists. Her approach incorporates classroom participation, demonstrations, group breakout sessions and “learning by doing.”

“Today’s audiologists need to be prepared to communicate professionally with patients, researchers, medical doctors and business professionals. Therefore, they not only need to be proficient in their skills but also have a working knowledge of research, physics and physicality of the hearing mechanism,” she said.

In her early professional career, she conducted research for the W.M. Keck Foundation Center for Integrative Neurosciences at University of California, San Francisco and Brain-Computer Interface Development at the N.A.S.A. Ames Research Center in Mountain View. Dr. Musacchia completed a post-doctoral fellowship sponsored by the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (F32) at the Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research in Orangeburg, New York. Following this, she completed a second post-doctoral position in developmental neuroscience at the Infancy Studies Laboratory at the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience at Rutgers University in Newark.

Her research interests revolve around the neuronal mechanisms of hearing. She is also active in foundations for early music education (e.g. VH1 Save the Music) and is the developer and president of Baby Rhythms®, a music program for infants and toddlers.

“My long-term goal is to generate research that is translatable to the classroom and clinic.”

A few interesting facts about Dr. Musacchia include: she is currently learning to speak Korean, she played trumpet in a 15-piece funk and disco band during her twenties, and she has a weakness for peanut butter and chocolate ice cream, but does not like chocolate.