The year 2020 marks the 30th year in practice for audiologist Marykate Vaughn, AuD, CCC-A. A NJSHA member since her student days, Marykate credits the Association with playing an essential part in enhancing her career. After receiving her undergraduate degree in speech-language pathology/audiology from Trenton State College (now TCNJ), Marykate pursued her master’s degree in audiology at Kean University where she met Martin Shulman, PhD, CCC-SLP. She recalls how Dr. Shulman, a NJSHA legend, would hand out membership applications to students in all the graduate courses he taught. “He always told us that we would never regret joining NJSHA,” Marykate said. “And I never have. I’ve been a member now for more than 25 years.”
A NJSHA Board member since 2011, Marykate has been a leader in New Jersey’s audiology community for decades. Early in her career, NJSHA nominated her for a position on the New Jersey Audiology and Speech Language Pathology Advisory Committee, the professional licensure board in the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, where she served from 1992 to 1998, including a term as Committee Chair. An active member of NJSHA’s Audiology, Legislative and Convention Committees, Marykate served on the Executive Council as part of her tenure as a NJSHA Board member. She has found that being involved in audiology outside of daily practice has contributed to her personal and professional growth. “Being involved on issues related to scope of practice, legislative affairs, continuing education and other professional matters, has impacted my approach to clinical care and motivation to follow best practices.”
NJSHA places a significant focus of its attention on audiologists, a strong component of the Association’s membership, and ensures that the profession benefits from the Association’s legislative agenda and public outreach programming. “Because of NJSHA’s ongoing advocacy efforts, the Association has a strong reputation across many state entities including the Division of Consumer Affairs, the Department of Education and the Department of Health. I’ve been proud to represent NJSHA and our patient populations in meetings with legislators and other professionals over the years.”
Marykate is pleased with NJSHA’s strong legislative advocacy, most notably the passing of the audiology single license bill. Members of NJSHA and the New Jersey Academy of Audiology (NJAA) have been advocating for this legislation for 10 years in the halls of Trenton. Governor Phil Murphy finally signed a bill in March 2019, allowing audiologists who hold a degree from an accredited graduate program to fit hearing aids without the need for a second license. The regulations are in the process of review by the attorney general and should soon be entering the final phases for enactment.
As audiologists are aware, there are currently many pressing issues within the profession. That is why Marykate and other prominent audiologists in NJSHA and NJAA continue to ensure that the audiology track at NJSHA Conventions include programming that focuses on the challenges and opportunities facing audiologists in this new decade. This includes sessions on age related hearing loss, ethics, patient-centered care, amplification technologies and changes in service delivery models. “Through my career I have seen the profession of audiology evolve from the master’s to doctoral level entry education requirement. By virtue of our training, audiologists are the premier hearing healthcare professionals, and we must promote ourselves as such, and emphasize the importance of our services and expertise.”
With a successful, 30-year career as an audiologist and years of leadership in NJSHA, what is next for Marykate?
In her clinical practice as an audiologist with Summit Medical Group since 2013, Marykate enjoys working with people of all ages, from babies to seniors. “I love the diversity in our patient population, but I have a special passion for working with the aging population. I am very focused on working with people who are aging and trying to support them,” she said. “Growing older brings increasing challenges both physical and cognitive. I want to promote living better as we live longer. Hearing is a critical element that keeps people connected, engaged and active. Hearing loss can lead to isolation, and early identification and treatment is essential.”
Marykate said there needs to be more education about hearing aids and ensuring that people use them correctly. There has been such a marked improvement in device technology and individuals should seek audiology services to ensure their devices are well-fitted and to learn to use them most effectively. This includes aural rehabilitation and training in communication strategies. “Hearing is more about your brain, than it is about your ears,” she said.
“With NJSHA’s help, I would love to promote increased awareness of the impact of hearing loss on the aging population, and the importance of early identification. We recognize how critical it is to identify hearing loss in children early, I would like to see the same emphasis on early diagnosis of hearing loss in adults.” Often, she said, many adults have not had a hearing test since their elementary school days. Marykate emphasized the need to educate primary care physicians (PCPs) on the link between aging, hearing loss and other health concerns. PCPs should be screening for hearing loss as part of an adult well visit and referring those who don’t pass to an audiologist for evaluation. Educating physicians and patients on the early signs of hearing loss, and the negative health outcomes that can be associated with untreated hearing loss, in addition to discussing risk factors – family history, noise exposure, medications and practicing prevention, can raise awareness and potentially reduce negative effects later on. Just as many people have vision loss, they will likely also have hearing loss over time, and that number is increasing as our population lives longer. “Patients should be aware of the impact of hearing loss on their day-to-day communication, long-term health and quality of life. I want people to be best prepared for the next phase of life.”