Are We Running Out of Puns? The Rise of Podcasting in Audiology



An Interview with Dakota Sharp, Au.D.

Although podcasting, a popular application of on-demand audio, has been around for more than 15 years, over the past year or so, it has really picked up steam. These days, it seems, everyone has a podcast. The profession of audiology is no exception. A recent check of the Apple podcast app (or any of the other assorted ways to download podcasts), reveals dozens of audiology-related podcasts on myriad subjects. Even some of the Audiology Old Guard, so to speak, have podcasts, including AudiologyOnline, Audigy and the Hearing Journal. In addition, there are several great podcasts, carefully curated by individuals. Below is a sample of those podcasts. As you peruse them, one wonders, have these podcasters exhausted all the ear and hearing puns?
  • The Hear Me Out Podcast with Mark Truong
  • All About Audiology with Lilach Saperstein
  • EmpowEar Audiology with Carrie Spangler
  • Hearing Matters Podcast with Gregory Delfino and Blaise Delfino
  • Audiology Talk with John Coverstone
  • The Business of Hearing with Phil M Jones and Oli Luke
  • FuturEar Radio with Dave Kemp
  • The Unbundled Audiologist with Erica Person
Together, these podcasts cover a range of subjects within our profession. One podcast that covers an assortment of interesting topics is On the Ear, created by Dakota Sharp. Audiology Practices managed to catch up with Dakota. Here is our interview with him.

AP: Tell us what motivated you to become an audiologist.

DS: After graduating high school, I was on track to become an elementary school teacher. I have a passion for education, and I love working with children. During my undergraduate orientation I took an Intro to CSD course, on the off chance that I might be interested in speech-language pathology(SLP), and learned about audiology. As the grandson/family member who is always called when someone needs help with a new computer or piece of technology, audiology felt like the perfect blend of technology, serving others, and the opportunity to work with children!

AP: Where did you earn your AuD and who were some of your biggest influences while training to become an audiologist?

DS: I completed both my Bachelor’s degree and Au.D. at James Madison University (Go Dukes!!). Highly recommend a visit to the Shenandoah Valley for anyone who hasn’t had the chance. I was fortunate to have a LOT of influential educators and clinical supervisors in my training. A few that come to mind: Dr. Sara Conrad for showing me the importance of compassion as a clinician, Dr. Brenda Ryals for sparking curiosity and teaching me how to better read journal articles, and Dr. Kelly Murphy for being a hilarious and brilliant mentor. Outside of direct contacts, Dr. Jane Madell was an early hero of mine, and helped cement my goal to improve pediatric audiology services for all children with hearing loss in any way I can. I am the clinician I am today thanks to the fantastic guidance I received from so many amazing audiologists, researchers, and educators.

AP: Where are you currently practicing?

DS: I am currently a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina, where I see patients in the on-campus clinic and teach Master’s SLP students the Introduction to Audiology course. It is truly my dream job—part clinic, part classroom.

AP: As a clinician, researcher or teacher, what are some of your biggest challenges and rewards?

DS: Working with students in the clinic and classroom is what makes my job so special but can also lead to the biggest challenges. While seeing patients, you’re not only mentally focused on the patient and their needs, but also the performance of the student, their needs, and feedback for them to share at the end of the appointment. It’s a lot of mental juggling, and when you’re in the midst of a screaming 3 year old with a scared parent and wild sibling, it can feel like a lot. But to see a student implement what they’ve been learning, take charge, and serve patients well? There’s no better feeling.

AP: Again, putting on your clinician, researcher or teacher hats, what are some of your biggest interests?

DS: I see a pretty good mix of cochlear implant and hearing aid patients, from birth to adults. My passion is for pediatrics, though, and when I first started at my current clinic, we did not have a pediatric hearing aid program, and did not work with the state newborn hearing screening program. I was able to establish our pediatric hearing aid program within the first year, and working with our state NBHS program, obtained ABR equipment to start seeing babies for natural sleep ABRs. My favorite appointments are ABRs and pediatric hearing aid fittings/follow-ups!

AP: What prompted you to get into podcasting?

DS: While in grad school, I hosted a weekly pub trivia at a local brewery, and it was always my favorite night of the week. I’ve also emceed a few school dances and weddings—I just love to host. I’ve also been an avid podcast listener for years, and so starting a podcast of my own was always a goal. A former student of mine connected me with Michelle Dawson, SLP, host of the First Bite podcast, where I was invited as a guest. Our conversation was so much fun, and after asking her about what it takes to get started, I decided to take the plunge! There were no other audiology podcasts eligible for CEU credit, so it felt like a great opportunity to do something I’d always wanted to try and learn a lot in the process.

AP: Tell us about the process of creating a podcast. What goes into planning and set-up?

DS: Because the podcast is eligible for CEUs, it takes a bit of planning! My first few guests were friends, mentors, and colleagues who I knew were fun and knowledgeable experts. Since then, I have made connections through previous guests and through social media to find new voices. As a young clinician, I don’t really have a long list of contacts, so this podcast has seriously helped me meet so many fantastic clinicians and researchers. For the more technical aspect of things, I work with a fantastic company called SpeechTherapyPD.com. They make sure everything is edited, hosted, and manage the CEUs. I take suggestions for episode topics and guests through the podcast’s Facebook and Instagram pages, and record new episodes every other week.

AP: I’m curious how other audiologists learn about your podcast. Do you market? Is it strictly word of mouth on social media?

DS: It’s all word of mouth. Honestly managing the social media is the most time-consuming aspect of the podcast. There are a lot of good tools for creating and planning content out there, but it’s so hard to stay ahead of it. The feedback from audiologists on social media has been great, and there’s a surprising number of AuD students who are avid listeners. I’m still working on how to reach more new listeners, but the best thing fans can do is leave a review or share on their favorite social media platform.

AP: Who are some of your most memorable guests on the podcast?

DS: That’s a tough one. I sincerely believe each guest has been fantastic, so new listeners should just find a topic that interests them and give it a listen. I received a lot of great feedback after Episode 10 – The Power of Conversation: Racial Disparities in Hearing Healthcare with my friend Dr. Logan Faust. She shared her experiences as a biracial audiologist, and her story is really powerful. Another popular episode is Episode 7 – Navigating Unilateral Hearing Loss as an Audiologist with SSD with another friend of mine, Dr. Sofia Roller. Sofie is hilarious and brilliant and her blend of personal stories and clinical experiences is great.

AP: Let’s look at the future of audiology. What advice would you give graduate students?

DS: I learned a lot from Dr. Ashley Hughes and Dr. Natalie Nelson in a recent episode (#15)—those extra skills you have, like creating graphics for Instagram, understanding social media algorithms, using Photoshop, etc. They can be useful in the workplace. Put those skills on your resume and negotiate with them. I’d also say that your 4th year externship is extremely important. Consider locations all over the country, and find a site that will give you the most well-rounded experience possible.

AP: How do you think the practice of audiology is likely to evolve over the next decade or so?

DS: This is a great question. I hate to keep doing this, but we have a recent episode for that, haha. I don’t consider myself much of a predictor, but Dave Kemp specializes in this. In episode #16 he breaks down how hearables are changing the hearing aid industry and audiology in general, and I am convinced. I really think the capabilities of things like AirPods will expand to be “communication enhancers” for people with mild hearing losses, as they’re clearly already tracking toward. I think it’s important that audiologists really embrace their full scope of practice and be willing to adapt to what people actually need.

AP: What future hearing device technology are you most excited about and why?

DS: The more I learn about Bluetooth LE Audio, the more excited I am. I think we will soon see a new, tidal wave of acceptance and accessibility for listeners with hearing loss that will really benefit everyone.

AP: Any final thoughts on podcasting or the future of audiology?

DS: I’ve been overwhelmed with the positive reaction to On the Ear. I truly enjoy making it, so hearing how it is impacting clinical practice, clinician attitudes, and the education of future clinicians is mind-blowing. The most important thing for any clinician to maintain is a love of lifelong learning. If audiologists can be trained to be curious and compassionate, our profession will no doubt continue to grow and benefit patients, families, and our society as a whole.

You can find the On the Ear podcast wherever you download your favorite podcasts.
Dakota Sharp, Au.D. can be reached at ds24@mailbox.sc.edu.