UT Physicians Audiologist Looks Beyond Hearing Loss to Resources for Life

September 16, 2021

Hailey WoodfinIn 2014, Haley Woodfin, then a freshman in college, started having surprising symptoms of chronic rhinosinusitis, accompanied by fever and ongoing general illness. She underwent a number of surgeries, including balloon sinuplasty, placement of an ear tube, rhinoplasty for a deviated septum, and removal of her adenoids. During her year of hospitalizations, she was diagnosed with the rare autoimmune disorder granulomatosis with polyangiitis, formerly known as Wegener’s granulomatosis, which may develop suddenly or emerge over a period of months.

She also was gradually losing her hearing. Woodfin was fitted with a hearing aid for her right ear, and when her ENT retired and a new physician took over the practice, he referred her to Aniruddha “Alok” Patki, MD, a board-certified otologist-neurotologist at UT Physicians and assistant professor in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. Dr. Patki prescribed antibiotic drops for chronic drainage in her right ear and referred her to Audrey Taylor, AuD, at UT Physicians Audiology for hearing testing.

“Haley had an ear tube in the left and chronic drainage on the right, so it was a matter of finding the right fit for her with her background and medical conditions,” Dr. Taylor says. “We also wanted to fit her left ear – two ears are always better than one.”

Dr. Taylor also connected Woodfin with the Texas Workforce Commission, which paid for her hearing aids in full as part of the Texas Workforce Solutions- Vocational Rehabilitation Services program, and told her about the Texas Certification of Deafness Tuition Waiver program.

“Students who meet certain criteria can apply to have their tuition waived at state-supported, postsecondary schools in Texas,” says Dr. Taylor, who was diagnosed with hearing loss herself at age 4. “Haley met the criteria.”

At that point, she was halfway through her sophomore year at the University of Houston and worried about paying her tuition. “Dr. Taylor enlightened me so much and was an enormous help,” says Woodfin, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in health in summer 2021. “I had a great experience. When I went to her office, I felt like I was talking to a friend rather than a doctor.”

“Haley’s case was pretty straightforward in terms of her hearing aids,” Dr. Taylor says. “But as audiologists, we always look beyond the obvious. We think about how hearing loss affects our patients’ entire lives and connect them with the resources they need to succeed.”

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