OHSU partnership brings audiology services, instruction to UO

A new collaboration between the UO’s College of Education and Oregon Health & Science University will allow children in Eugene and Southern Oregon to receive hearing assistance at the UO instead of traveling to Portland.

Previously, parents had to bring their children to OHSU’s Child Development and Rehabilitation Center, based at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and part of the OHSU Portland campus. The child center has a satellite office at the UO’s Clinical Services Building, but that location hasn’t offered audiology services.

Using donor funds dedicated to support hearing research, the UO obtained an audiology testing booth that will soon be operating in space at the Clinical Services Building. In addition to helping parents and children, the new hearing lab will allow UO undergraduates to observe audiology assessments and take classes in the subject with an OHSU pediatric audiologist.

Undergraduate students in communication disorders and sciences can use the observation time to gain valuable experience and decide whether to pursue a career in audiology or speech-language pathology, which focuses on speech, language, swallowing and cognition.

Audiology, which focuses on hearing and speech and includes assessments of ear function to identify hearing loss, is an important service for children with other special health needs. That’s because understanding hearing capabilities can affect other treatment and communication options necessary to provide care.

Once the UO hearing lab opens to offer audiology services, Southern Oregon families in need of an audiologist can skip the additional commute to Portland and get more care in one location.

The UO’s HEDCO Clinic collaborated with OHSU to establish the lab. The HEDCO Clinic is a service and outreach arm of the College of Education, providing training for programs within the college, including communication disorders and sciences, counseling psychology, couples and family therapy, school psychology, and special education.

To purchase and install the audiology booth, the College of Education used funds from the Marjorie A. Mitchell Speech-Language Hearing Center Fund, which is dedicated to supporting research for individuals with hearing loss. The lab is now called the Marjorie Mitchell Audiology Laboratory.

Wendy Hadley, director of the HEDCO Clinic, led the collaboration and coordination of services between the two institutions. Hadley said the booth, which will be staffed by OHSU providers, serves as an important bridge in the collaboration.

The College of Education wanted to use the Marjorie A. Mitchell Speech-Language Hearing Center Fund for a project with a lasting effect. The partnership with Oregon Health & Science University is making that possible.

“We wanted to use this gift and we wanted a collaboration with Oregon Health & Science University,” Hadley said. “They’re a great partner and they’re right here on campus. They provide expertise we think our students like. So this gave us a meaningful way to reach both of those goals.”

The College of Education has been without a faculty audiologist for several years, but students now will have access to Lyndsay Duffus, a pediatric audiologist with OHSU and a UO graduate. The partnership between the two institutions included a three-year commitment for OHSU audiologists to teach courses at the College of Education. Duffus began teaching audiology courses this fall and will teach again spring term.

“We’re really excited to have an audiologist as an instructor for those classes,” said Karen Durany, the undergraduate program director for communication disorders and sciences. “And I’m just excited Dr. Duffus is here because I’ve known her for quite some time. She is just a great clinician.”

In addition to teaching classes, Duffus is the audiologist who will be working in the Marjorie Mitchell Audiology Laboratory once it opens. During the winter, Duffus will see around eight to 10 patients a week. The clinic has already begun adding audiology patients to the waitlist.

Hadley said the fact that the collaboration can benefit College of Education students at the University of Oregon while also supporting Oregon families makes the entire program more exciting.

“We’re teaching audiology in the classroom. And we’re working on it here, right next door,” Hadley said. “That’s a whole different aim. The aim of the University of Oregon is to educate the state. But we’re also providing services to the community.”

By Madeline Ryan, College of Education