SPHSC Alumni Stories

Ali Dykhouse

Name: Alexandra (Ali) Dykhouse
Program: Doctor of Audiology
Year graduated: 2011

Ali Dykhouse graduated from the UW Doctor of Audiology program in 2011. In this interview, she discusses her experience in the program and how it has impacted her career as an audiologist at a private ear, nose and throat medical practice.

Why did you choose to attend the University of Washington’s Doctor of Audiology?

The UW is one of the top three [schools] for audiology in the nation according to U.S. News & World Report. It’s up there with Vanderbilt and Iowa. I checked out all three places and felt like UW and Seattle fit me the best. I moved out to Seattle [for the program] and moved back to the east coast after graduating.

How did you benefit from the program? Did it help you advance your career or shape your goals?

If I hadn’t done the program, I probably would’ve only been able to pursue an audiology assistant position or I could’ve been a hearing aid dispenser. But I could not have been an audiologist without the doctorate.

Having the opportunity to work with such a wide variety of supervisors and patients helped me figure out the kinds of environments I was interested in working with. Had that variety and quality not been there, I wouldn’t really be able to develop those interests and have [that] confidence.

Can you describe the quality and variety of the clinical placements during the fourth year? What did you gain from the experience?

For my fourth year, I was at the UW Medical Center in the audiology department. In that year, you don’t really have any class. At the [UW Medical Center], we had almost every possible form of audiology that you could think of. There was a lot of variety and exposure. The med center has a large audiology department and they see a very wide variety of medically involved patients with hearing loss, patients from all different types of backgrounds. [I worked] with a variety of supervisors, all who are top-notch. There are so many different people and so many different perspectives on how to do the same thing that you can find a way that works best for you and your patients, and you really get to hone your own sense of confidence in what you do. I left feeling like I would be prepared to work in a multitude of settings.

What are you doing now and how has the program impacted your career?

I work at a private ear, nose and throat medical practice. I work with another audiologist and we both do the diagnostic side of audiology for the physician’s patients. Any of his patients that are hearing aid candidates, need other assistive listening or hearing protection devices, we work with on our end. I can’t think of one class or clinical placement at UW that has not applied to my current job.

What did you enjoy most in your clinical training?

We had a really good group. We spend almost half the day together, five days a week. We got along really well, worked together and learned from each other. We all recognized each other’s strengths and weaknesses and were able to learn from those. The same goes for our supervisors and faculty, they are all wonderful people. So overall, the people that we worked with were probably one of the best parts of the program.

What is evidence-based practice (EBP) and how has your training in EBP helped prepare you for your career?

Evidence-based practice is the concept that what you do with your patients in your practice has to be based on some kind of proven research. There is evidence for why you do something one way versus another. And I think [that is] one of the big strengths of the UW program compared to others. The UW tends to have a really strong research base and Ph.D. program, and I think that feeds into the clinical audiology program where we take whole courses on research and do an in-depth research project. We’re required to support all of our opinions and papers with quality research. We’re supposed know the current discussion topics and keep up to date on what’s out there and be aware that things change. And that’s 100% relevant and necessary for what I do now. I wrote all of our protocols for how we perform audiologic tests and why we do it. It’s all in the best interest of the patients and keeps things efficient and in line with current knowledge.

What was your research project about?

My research project was about sound processing that’s used in hearing aids. There are a number of research labs in the department and we were able to work in some of those labs for our projects. I worked with Dr. Pamela Souza. She had a pretty extensive hearing aid research lab for adults with hearing loss. I did a small project within one of her larger projects about the use of compression in hearing aids and how it affects word understanding.

What were your learning take-aways from your research project?

By doing research you can appreciate on a deeper level what makes good research and what doesn’t. So when you’re later reading things and keeping up with your evidence-based practice, you know when you’re reading something good versus when you’re reading something that might not have as much merit. So [I gained] a deeper understanding of the research process, writing and how labs work. As far as topic materials go, I chose something that was interesting to me and I feel like it still directly helps me today in understanding the [hearing aid] settings that I choose for my patients – why I choose one over another when a patient has a certain complaint.