Professional organizations recommend that medical professionals, including audiologists, achieve a basic competency in genetics, in order to better serve their clients' needs in this age of rapid growth in the field of genetics. The Year 2007 Position Statement: Principles and Guidelines for Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Programs stresses the importance of offering genetic counseling to all families of children newly diagnosed with hearing loss (JCIH, 2007). Knowing the etiologic cause of a child's hearing loss can help professionals and parents make decisions regarding treatment and educational options for the child (Burton, Blanton, Culpepper, White, Pandya, Nance, & Arnos, 2006; JCIH, 2007). Audiologists and speech language pathologists are often the first professionals to see clients with genetic speech or hearing conditions (Lapham, Kozma, Weiss, Benkendorf, & Wilson, 2000).
In this research project, a questionnaire was designed to evaluate practicing audiologists' confidence in their own knowledge of genetic concepts related to hearing loss, their confidence in making appropriate referrals for genetic counseling, and their preferences regarding continuing education in genetics. The questionnaire and a cover letter were mailed to the addresses provided by the American Academy of Audiology for 1,000 randomly selected audiologists.
Research Question 1 asked if audiologists could correctly answer basic questions about molecular genetics and the genetics of hearing loss. Of the six content questions that were asked, more than 50% of the respondents could provide the correct answer for only one of the questions. Research Question 2 asked if most practicing audiologists are confident in their own knowledge of genetics and the genetics of hearing loss. For the six content questions that were asked, confidence levels were also assessed. Percentages of participants who were "confident" or "very confident" that their responses were correct ranged from 26–70% for the individuals who had gotten the answer correct, and 7–39% for the individuals who had gotten the answer incorrect. Research Question 3 asked if most practicing audiologists know where to refer clients for genetic counseling in their geographic area. Fifty-six percent of respondents indicated that they "sometimes" or "always" knew where to refer clients for genetic counseling in their area. Research Question 4 asked if most practicing audiologists are interested in continuing education in genetics. Sixty-eight percent of respondents indicated that they were "moderately" or "very" interested in participating in continuing education in genetics.
These findings suggest that audiologists may be in need of continuing education in genetics and specific recommendations for when and how to make referrals to genetics professionals.
|Adviser||Wendy D. Hanks|
|Subjects||Audiology; Genetics; Medical ethics|
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