Top Docs: Educational Audiologist

Most audiologists go to work inside hospitals or private medical practices. But Kirsten Marconi-Hutkay’s office is a classroom—and she often finds herself in a different classroom every day.

Kirsten Marconi-Hutkay

Most audiologists go to work inside hospitals or private medical practices. But Kirsten Marconi-Hutkay’s office is a classroom—and she often finds herself in a different classroom every day.

Marconi-Hutkay is an educational audiologist, tasked with evaluating students for hearing loss and helping hearing-impaired students get and properly use the appropriate equipment they need to hear clearly in the classroom.

“I never have a typical day, which is one of the reasons I love my job,” said Marconi-Hutkay, a native of southern Ohio who came to Stark County for her externship while pursuing her doctorate at the University of Akron.

Marconi-Hutkay is one of three educational audiologists on staff at the Stark County Educational Service Center. She, Susan Bussard and Alyse Rante-Musisca provide hearing services for children in 16 Stark County school districts, as well as students in neighboring districts through a contract. (Canton City Schools employs its own audiologist.)

“My job kind of picks up when the kid leaves Akron Children’s (Hospital) and goes into the world,” Marconi-Hutkay said. “… We are helping these kids deal with life.”

When she’s not visiting schools, Marconi-Hutkay is at the county’s audiology center, where she can perform full diagnostic evaluations for a child referred for a screening. Marconi-Hutkay said most counties do not have their own stand-alone audiology center, instead relying on portable equipment that limits the type of diagnostic tests that can be performed.

She said many Ohio counties also do not have an educational audiologist available—let alone three—due to strained finances and a recent rash of retirements. This school year, the Ohio Department of Education has licensed 30 educational audiologists for Ohio’s 88 counties.

“There should be 100,” Marconi-Hutkay said. “There are many districts not served at all. I think the hearing-impaired students are a very underserved population.

“In Stark County, we are pretty lucky,” she said.