Students in Eastern Massachusetts’s only program will graduate in just three years, helping fill a national shortage of audiologists

The MGH Institute of Health Professions welcomed its first cohort of Doctor of Audiology students to campus last month, filling a void as the only AuD program in Eastern Massachusetts after two schools closed their programs in recent years. The program’s launch comes at a critical time for another reason -currently, there’s a shortage of roughly 10,000 audiologists in the United States. And according to the American Academy of Audiology, there are only two other audiology programs in New England. 

Dr. Andrea Pittman, the program’s director, played a key role in its development. 

“We find that many students are motivated to begin working in the field as soon as possible,” she shared. “By including summer semesters in our program, we’re able to offer a continuous curriculum that fits all coursework and clinical placements into three years rather than four. One consequence of this approach is less overall clinical training time for the students, but our collaboration with Mass Eye and Ear allows us to offer high-quality, high-impact experiences in every training opportunity during the program.

“Basically, we're experimenting with a new model of AuD education.” 

A key component of that new model is the close collaboration with Mass Eye and Ear, a member of the Mass General Brigham healthcare system and one of the top audiology hospitals in the country. This relationship will allow students to get hands-on experience treating patients early in their training under the supervision of practicing audiologists, in addition to classroom learning and client interactions at the school’s Charlestown Navy Yard campus.

Some of the other unique aspects of the Mass Eye and Ear (MEE) collaboration include the IHP using the audiology equipment and resources at MEE as an instructional lab in the evenings; MEE using the facilities in the Impact Practice Center as a satellite clinical, and MEE clinicians serving as Term Lecturers and consultants to design and develop the curriculum. 

“Our collaboration is unique in that there are only a few other programs in the country that have this kind of clinical relationship – they are a rare and valuable opportunity for students,” she shared.

Mass Eye and Ear’s Meaghan Reed, AuD, CCC-A, Director of Clinical Audiology, spoke to the nature of the program and what it offers the local and national audiology communities by training future clinicians – and training them well.

“This new AuD program bridges the world-class audiology services and quality of care that MEE offers with the teaching and training strengths of the IHP,” Reed said. “This program is unique because our best-in-class audiologists will be hands-on teaching, training, and mentoring the next generation.” 

Students will also have advanced clinical training opportunities with audiology clinics at Boston Children’s Hospital, the Boston Veterans Administration, and Boston Public Schools, among other facilities.

“We are in an extraordinary position to have so many world-class clinical partners in the Boston area,” said Pittman. 

In the program, students will receive classroom instruction during their first year, focused on the hearing and balance systems, perception and psychoacoustics, and disorders of the auditory system. In addition, they will begin work alongside Mass Eye and Ear audiologists both in the on-campus clinic – the Audiology Collaborative for Better Hearing in the Impact Practice Center – and at the hospital.  

The program will also leverage Boston’s brain, hearing science, and audiology experts, bringing in guest speakers often to expose students to new ideas and create networking opportunities.

“Boston is a center of hearing science in the U.S. Several of our local institutions engage in hearing science and related areas of research,” Pittman said. “So, we have local experts that we could never get anywhere else.”

In the second year, students can add an elective capstone project with a faculty mentor and/or enroll in special-topics courses covering recent advances in the evaluation and treatment of hearing loss and balance disorders. During this time, they will continue training at hospitals and clinics throughout Greater Boston.

In their final year, they will complete a full-time clinical externship position with an American Speech-Language-Hearing Association-certified audiologist.   

Pittman comes to the IHP with more than 30 years of experience in audiology, hearing science, and AuD education. After receiving her Master’s degree in Audiology from San Diego State University, she worked as an audiologist for several years before pursing her PhD in Hearing Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She then completed post-doctoral training at Boys Town National Research Hospital before accepting an academic position in the Speech and Hearing Science Department at Arizona State University. During her 18 years at ASU, she directed research in the Pediatric Amplification Lab and was Director of the Doctor of Audiology program for many years. 

“What intrigued me about coming to Boston from Arizona was the potential to launch a new high-quality program in an area with rich and untapped resources for audiology training, particularly during a time when more AuD programs are desperately needed,” she said. 

Abigail Wenner, AuD '26, spent her undergraduate years in a rural area, where the patient population was not very diverse socioeconomically, mostly because many couldn’t afford hearing aids. 

“This is a huge reason why I chose to study at IHP for my doctoral level education,” she noted. “Our partner clinic – Mass Eye and Ear – has been offering cheaper alternatives to hearing aids to their patients for years and has structured their practice in a way that allows patients to get the care they need regardless of socioeconomic status.” 

Sydney Zech, AuD '26, decided to become an audiologist after studying speech language pathology as an undergrad, like many audiology students. After learning more about the field and the outcomes that result from the work of audiologists, she began looking into AuD programs.

“I was drawn to the concrete, quantifiable measures used in audiology, and the variety of the field,” she shared. “As an audiologist, there are so many different avenues you can take, from vestibular diagnostics, to hearing assistive technology, educational support, and more – the field is full of opportunity.” 

She cites the IHP’s close partnership with Mass Eye and Ear as one reason she chose the IHP – the other being the faculty. 

“As one of Boston's top hospitals for audiology, I knew I wanted to be close to Mass Eye and Ear – and get to work with them,” Zech noted. “Beyond that, it was clear how incredible the faculty that started the program were. From the first conversation I had about the program with Dr. Pittman, I could see how dedicated, motivated, and excited she and the rest of our faculty were to helping us succeed.”

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