GROVE CITY – When Kate Faunce got her first hearing aid, she was amazed by the sounds around her, like high heels click-clacking on a tile floor.
“It was just the loudest and clearest thing I had heard,” she said.
Faunce, who is celebrating her fifth anniversary as an audiologist with Connect Hearing Inc. in Grove City, recently shared her story in honor of May being designated as Better Hearing and Speech Month.
“I love my people,” the Grove City resident said of working with patients who need help with their hearing.
When the Oil City native was about two years old, her father, David, noticed that she wasn’t responding to sound in the same way as her two siblings.
“He made sure to advocate for me,” she said, noting that her mother, Susan, has also been supportive.
She had hearing tests and was able to indicate that she heard the tones. She could also repeat words.
“I was lip reading,” Faunce said.
She remembers having to sit close to the television to hear what was being said, and she recalled a spelling test at school – the words she wrote down were spelled correctly, but they were not the words that the teacher recited.
The teacher had been walking around the classroom as she gave the test, making it difficult for Faunce to understand the words.
Further testing showed severe to profound hearing loss in her left ear, and complete hearing loss in her right ear.
She was eight years old when she received her first hearing aid – an experience that took place at the Clarion University audiology clinic.
She vividly remembers noticing the sounds of two women walking down the hallway, and things improved for her at school.
“It was a whole new world,” Faunce said.
Resources and information were limited at that time – it was before the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 – so her family helped her educate people, and she learned to be more assertive about having her needs met.
When she was about 16, she had a CT scan that showed her hearing issues were connected to a birth defect.
Faunce has had quite a few ear infections and had tubes placed in her ears several times.
Hearing aids and other devices are constantly being improved, and she decided to get a cochlear implant about 1½ years ago.
“My motivation was to hear Joseph better,” she said of her three-year-old son.
Joseph’s hearing is fine, and Faunce said she’s open to talking about her experience because it helps educate others.
“People don’t expect it in someone young,” she said of her condition.
Faunce has worked in higher education, but she learned that she enjoys working with people who need help with hearing loss.
She has an undergraduate degree in special education from Bloomsburg University; a master’s degree in education of the deaf from Smith College; and a master’s in audiology from the University of Pittsburgh.
Technological advancements have had an impact on the audiology field, like hearing aids with Bluetooth connectivity or devices that are rechargeable.
“They’re selling like hotcakes,” she said of the Bluetooth aids.
Her patients get to try out hearing aids before they buy them, and she said it’s exciting to watch them discover new or improved sounds; it’s often an emotional moment.
The patients love Faunce, who is passionate about her career, said Judy King, patient care coordinator at Connect Hearing.
“Truly she cares about them. ... She’s committed to the community,” King said.
The Connect Hearing team and the patients are like another family for Faunce, who encourages everyone to take care of their hearing health and get it checked on a yearly basis.
Factors like genetics and aging can impact hearing. Protection should be used when doing activities like mowing the grass, or attending loud events like concerts.
“You want to be very diligent,” she said.
The Connect Hearing website offers an online hearing test and information about signs of hearing loss.
Faunce loves reading and spending time with her family, which includes her husband Shawn and their dog Geno. She’s a member of the Grove City chapter of the Philanthropic Educational Organization, and her family belongs to the Church of the Beloved Disciple.