My Journey to Become a Doctor of Audiology

Hello, my name is Ryan Hildebrandt, and I am a 4th year doctoral extern with Gardner Audiology in 2024.  As I got older and went through school, I had to figure out what I wanted to do for my future. I had always played music and I knew I wanted a job that allowed me to work with people, and not be working in a cubicle. I did not know about audiology until I was a sophomore in my undergraduate program at USF. I was taking all the general sciences for pre-requisites, looking into medical school and by the time I was entering my spring semester of my 2nd year, I needed something specific. 

 I was studying with my fraternity brothers, 2 of which happened to be in the undergraduate pre-audiology track. The material they were studying was interesting to me and combined two things I happened to like, health and science. From that day, I decided that audiology seemed like the field I wanted to pursue for my career. It combined acoustics (something I happen to be a nerd over from my love of music), technology (hearing aids), and people! As I got deeper in my studies it clicked that I had found the field for me. I happened to graduate into the COVID-19 pandemic and decided to take the year off from school and get in the field. I spent some time working as an audiologist’s assistant with an ENT practice where I got to do diagnostic testing and learn from ENTs about all the various ear related disorders. It was a great experience getting to work directly with patients, growing my knowledge and starting a foundation for myself moving forward with my career aspirations.  

The only thing I had left was start my doctoral program and continue my education. It was time to go back to USF and continue my studies (go bulls!)! Through my time in the audiology program, I discovered my passions in the field such as diagnostics and advanced signal processing in hearing aids.  

While in the program, I had the opportunity to get involved in hearing science research, something I became increasingly passionate about as I got more and more involved. This research I got to be a part of provides information to all involved in the world of hearing science about how to better advance hearing aids to be tailored to an individual specifically, as no two people will experience the same thing. This research allowed me wonderful opportunities such as presenting at the Acoustical Society of America with a poster session about my research on perceptual measures that will look at better decision making with hearing aid programming of advanced processes.  

The whole experience of working with a patient is like building a puzzle; identifying the loss, determining the proper hearing aid or medical referral, and ensuring a perfect fit for the patient. When a patient smiles and expresses the joy of hearing, it is an emotion like no other to know you enriched someone’s life and create new experiences for them. I am beyond excited to continue my education hands-on working alongside and learning from the audiologists at Gardner Audiology. 

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