How Industry Can Support Academia

erica-koehlerBy Erica Koehler, Au.D.

Take a moment to imagine all of the professionals that you encountered during your time as a student, and beyond.  Now think of all of the pieces of advice, tricks of the trade, and bits of knowledge that you received from each of them.  Seems nearly impossible, right?  Well if that is the case don’t worry, it’s not a sign of poor memory, it’s a sign of a well-rounded professional!  The best audiologists are always learning!

One of the most natural ways to continue learning is to teach. The art of teaching requires a solid understanding of the material discussed, in order to handle the questions that arise from students and others who are learning the material for the first time.  Audiologists who work in industry learn from the experiences they have with audiologists in nearly every setting, and from students in university programs. The ideas and viewpoints expressed by students who are starting their careers in the field can in many cases help audiologists in industry understand the future needs and wants of the profession. These needs and wants can then be applied to future developments in technology that will better serve audiologists in the future. In exchange, students learn about current technology being implemented by manufacturers, which can in some cases relate directly to research being done in the universities. Therefore, the relationship between industry and university students facilitates the give-and-take qualities of learning and teaching.

The GN ReSound Global Audiology teams in Ballerup, Denmark and Glenview, Illinois (USA) both support universities by offering educationally based talks. The discussions that arise from these talks promote further investigation into current product offerings as well as better insight into training and marketing needs. One example of this involved a talk for university students about directional processing. After the talk, the student asked, “If the microphones in a directional hearing aid are not on a horizontal plane, is the processing in the hearing instrument able to compensate for this or is the directivity lost?”  Although a firm and complete answer was not possible at the time, the audiologist provided some additional information but also investigated the question when she returned to the office. After speaking with an acoustic engineer, she responded with a comprehensive answer via email to the university class. In this case, the teacher became the student, learning more about the topic based on an excellent question from a university student. The student was also able to ask this question as she knew the answer was attainable from an audiologist working in industry, who would have access to technical product information. Further, the audiologist was able to incorporate this question into future student talks, based on what she learned. This example highlighted the mutually beneficial relationship industry and academia can have, outside of the more obvious application of academic research into future product development.

The overall goal of student outreach is to share our knowledge of hearing aids and the hearing aid industry with students. The experiences of audiologists who work in with hearing instrument technology in its research and development phases may be interesting to some students. Thus, if students are interested in experiencing research and development firsthand, ReSound offers internship and externship opportunities that provide a unique experience and insight into this career opportunity. In some cases, internships and externships in our facility have naturally led to careers for these students as well.  Students often comment about how they feel much more comfortable with real ear or the test box after having been here but what they value most is getting the inside view of hearing aid development.  In total, the combination of industry and the university programs is a “win-win” situation for all involved.

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