In the Fall 2013 commencement, the College of Allied Health Sciences will graduate its first class of audiologists with a certificate in animal audiology—the first certificate program of its kind.
The certificate, launched in the fall of 2011, is a new focus area combining the fields of audiology and veterinary medicine. Creator and associate professor of communication sciences and disorders Pete Scheifele, PhD, says there’s a growing need for audiologists who can test for and diagnose hearing problems in animals, particularly dogs.
"Currently, there are 80 breeds of dogs experiencing genetic deafness—with more experiencing deafness due to age and noise,” he says. "While veterinarians receive training in otology, they are not specifically trained in audiology for animals. There’s a growing demand for animal audiology services—not just from pet owners, but from the American Kennel Club and from organizations that work with service and working dogs.”
The certificate is available to UC audiology doctoral students, as well as currently licensed audiologists. Students take three courses in animal physiology and electrophysiological hearing testing before completing a required 30-hour practicum.
Aniruddha Deshpande will be the first to receive the new certificate during the doctoral hooding and master’s recognition ceremony Friday, Dec. 13.
Deshpande came to UC to get his PhD in audiology in 2009, when he met Scheifele and decided to also enroll in the certificate program.
"I’ve always been interested in animal physiology and anatomy,” he says. "My mother is a zoology professor and as a child, I always accompanied her to field trips. When I came to UC, I viewed the certificate as a golden opportunity to combine my skills and passion. I was thrilled with the prospect—I’ve not found this program elsewhere. I’ve had wonderful opportunities to put my skills to test, like the acoustic mapping of the dolphinarium at the Georgia Aquarium. With this program, you also have the opportunity to give back to the community via volunteer programs like the Canine Corps.”
Deshpande’s practicum for the certificate involved first serving as a technician in FETCHLAB during canine hearing screenings, then running hearing screenings and diagnostics under supervision.
UC’s FETCHLAB is the only U.S. program that has the capability to teach animal audiology to certificate students. But this fall, Scheifele has worked to make the certificate more accessible to distance learning students. These new students can take their coursework online, and then have the choice of coming to UC’s FETCHLAB or working with a local, approved veterinarian for their final practicum.
"We now have potential students from all over the U.S. who can take these courses online,” says Scheifele. "It’s a great thing, because we’ll be able to teach students who are out in the population, already working as veterinarians or practicing audiologists—and we’re building connections with veterinarians so they can add audiology services to their existing practice.”