LVhen E.rooke Schoeffler .-oe- Out th her
friends, they always tease her for popping in
earplugs at concerts, clubs and theaters. But Featured Scholar:
she knows one day her foresight will pay off. Brooke Schoeffler
"When you are young you think, 'Who cares
about my hearing in 40 years?' But I get to go . .
out and talk to the older population and realize 2003 - 2004 University Scholar
why you should care," she says. "If you can Mentor: Patricia Kricos
hold on to your hearing until you are 80 or 90
years old, you are going to be the coolest College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
person at the retirement home, believe me."
Interested in both hearing loss and the aging,
Brooke found the perfect USP project for her
needs working under Patricia Kricos, a
communication sciences and disorders
professor and the director of the Center for
Gerontological Studies. Together they recruited
research participants aged 65 or older and
recorded how their acceptance of hearing loss
changed after failing a hearing exam.
"We went out and tried to see what older
adults' acceptance level of their hearing loss
was and if it was close to what we actually got /pp
for their screening," Brooke says. "It was
interesting to see people right there, just by us
telling them they missed all the tones,
reconsider that maybe they should seek some g
Using the Transtheoretical Stages-of-Change Model created by psychologists, Schoeffler tried to classify participants into one
of five stages -pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance. Participants were given a
hearing evaluation consisting of a physical exam with an otoscope, a screening with pure tone sounds and a face-to-
face interview. The goal of the research is to try to identify what stage of acceptance people are at, in hopes of helping them
to better move through the different stages of change to the point of fully accepting and dealing with their hearing loss.
"Everyone has those relatives who say, 'I don't have a hearing loss, it's you, you mumble'," she says. "And there are people
out there who turn up the television really loud but won't admit they have a problem. It has been so gradual that they've
lived with it, but it is really hurting them in the end."
Brooke says the audiological community needs to focus on the older population because they are the ones at risk for
isolation and depression caused by hearing loss. While a young person would likely get help for a hearing problem, an
aging person would avoid getting a hearing aide because of the social stigma surrounding it.
"It is a sign of aging," Brooke says. "If I talked to my brother and found that he had a hearing loss at 24, he would probably
go in and get help. But if I talked to my dad at 55, I don't think he would ever admit to a hearing loss. When you see a
hearing aide on a person who is graying or slightly aging you think he's getting older and losing his hearing. No one ever
thinks that maybe he was always like that. With glasses, nobody says, "Wow, you are wearing glasses, you are aging"
because it doesn't have that social stigma anymore. But hearing aides still do and that is something we are trying to move
Brooke graduated in May 2003 with a BA in communication sciences and disorders. She was recently accepted into
the audiology graduate program at UF and continues to work as a research assistant for Dr. Kricos. As an undergraduate
she served as vice president of the National Student Speech Language and Hearing Association and coordinated the G.
Paul Moore Communication Symposium on campus. She was also the president and a founding member of Sigma Phi
Omega, the national academic honor and professional society for gerontology. She says one of her most important
experiences as an undergraduate was participating in the USP.
"You can't judge a field by the classes, they are so based on theory," she says. "A lot of people graduate with a degree
that sounded really good in theory until they get to the job and day to day it is not really what they thought it would be.
I wanted to make sure that I was going to be satisfied at the end of the day, and the USP has filled me with passion for what
I want to do."
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