CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection


Listen Up Canada!

By David Chilton
Special to The Sun

M.J. DeSousa has seen life as an audiologist from both sides of her profession. No, not as a hearing person who has suffered impairment, but as an audiologist who moved from what she calls the "medical model" of audiology to the still new realm of the audiology storefront.

DeSousa, who graduated from the three year program at the University of Western Ontario nine years ago, is vice-president and chief audiologist for Listen Up Canada!, an 11-location chain that provides testing and hearing aids in a retail environment.

DeSousa, whose names behind the initials are Margaret Jean, says she headed into audiology more by accident than design. After graduation from Queen's University with a degree in psychology, she intended to pursue a doctorate in that subject. But she and her husband to be -- intending to pursue a doctorate himself -- realized that as academics they'd probably never live in the same city.

"So I started re-evaluating my plan," DeSousa says. "I wasn't convinced that career in research was exactly what I was looking for, so I sat down and talked to the professor I was working with at the time -- I was doing a lot of work in auditory and visual research -- and he mentioned audiology."

DeSousa says that same professor introduced her to an audiologist, allowing her to observe the work close up. Intrigued and interested, she decided that audiology rather than psychology would be her career.

Following her graduation from Western, DeSousa found a position in the audiology department at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. There was -- and is -- a shortage of audiologists, she says. "I didn't have any difficulty finding a job."

While at St. Mike's, DeSousa says she "moonlighted" for some private clinics she found "less than desirable." She also found the welter of rules and regulations at the hospital rather less than desirable. St. Mike's is an acute care facility, says DeSousa, and audiology wasn't a priority.

Although in her seven and a half years at the hospital DeSousa worked her way up to become professional practice leader, she remained frustrated because she couldn't make the changes she thought necessary. That was when she began to look at alternatives, finding Listen Up Canada! 18 months ago. DeSousa says she thought, "What a great opportunity to do audiology the way it should be done."

Her principal responsibility is clinical care at Listen Up Canada! DeSousa moves from location to location working in tandem with other audiologists as they test and prescribe hearing aids for patients, among other responsibilities.

The main difference between the hospital model and the retail environment is client focus, says DeSousa. The actual testing and so on are very similar, but she says what the company is trying to provide is a less intimidating environment. Clients are counselled to ensure they are successful with their hearing aids, and there's extensive after care. With the medical model of audiology, "you're kind of on your own," DeSousa maintains.

Generally, patients are very pleased with the new retail environment, she continues, because it's something that's long overdue. Although Desousa cautions she doesn't have any hard data to back up her argument, it's her opinion clients are more likely to wear their hearing aids if they've been involved in the decisions about them. They seem more positive, says DeSousa, rather than just being resigned to the fact they have to wear hearing aids.

Whether that's perception or fact hardly matters. Anything that makes a dent in the 85% of Canadians who have hearing loss but don't wear hearing aids, is welcome.

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