In celebration of March being National Women’s History Month, we want to highlight women in the field of audiology. There are many women who have made lasting impacts on the profession of audiology, but there are several that seem to shine the brightest. Lucky enough, they all have ties to Colorado audiology.
Dr. Marion Downs
Dr. Marion Downs is internationally recognized for her work in pediatric audiology, especially the early identification of hearing loss in newborns, infants, and young children. She was one of the first to recognize the need for infants with hearing loss to use hearing aids as early as possible to develop speech, language, and communication skills. She pioneered the first national newborn hearing screening program in 1963 in Denver, Coloradowhile working at the University of Colorado School of Medicine as an audiologist. In 1969, Dr. Downs proposed that a national committee be established to periodically review, evaluate, and recommend “best practices” to newborn hearing screening programs. Later that year the national Joint Committee on Infant Hearing was created, which has operated ever since that time. Since 1963, newborn hearing screenings have become widespread nationally and have also been established in many other countries. As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 97% of newborns born in the United States are screened for hearing loss.
Dr. Downs continued her work at the University of Colorado School of Medicine as a Distinguished Professor Emerita for over 35 years. The Marion Downs Hearing Center on the campus of the University of Colorado Medical Center and “provides culturally sensitive services, resources, education, and research to support the needs of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing or who have communication challenges, their families, and the professionals who serve them.” Throughout her career in audiology, she was awarded many honors for her service to the profession and to healthcare. Dr. Downs passed away in California in 2014 at the age of 100.
Dr. Cheryl DeConde Johnson
Dr. Cheryl DeConde Johnson is well known for her work in the educational audiology setting. She has long been an advocate for children with hearing loss to have educational and communication access that would allow them to have comparable outcomes as their hearing peers. She was an educational audiologist and program coordinator for the public school deaf and hard of hearing program in Greeley, Colorado. From 1998-2006 she was a consultant for the Colorado Department of Education and responsible for their deaf and hard of hearing education and audiology services. She continues to work in the field of audiology as a lecturer and adjunct faculty member in the Audiology departments of multiple universities, including the University of Northern and the University of Colorado. Her career in audiology is full of many awards and accolades for her work.
Dr. Deanna Meinke
Dr. Deanna Meinke is currently a professor in the Audiology and Speech-Language Sciences department at the University of Northern Colorado. She is well known and sought-after for her work and research in the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss. She has also done extensive research and work in the use of distortion product otoacoustic emissions for the early detection and monitoring of noise-induced hearing loss. Dr. Meinke has been active in the profession of audiology as the past president of the National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA) and the Colorado Academy of Audiology (CAA). She has been invited multiple times to speak at the World Health Organization (WHO) Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland on safe listening practices. She also is currently the co-director of Dangerous Decibels, which is a “public health campaign designed to reduce the incidence and prevalence of Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) and tinnitus (ringing in the ear) by changing knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of school-aged children.”
Dr. Christine Yoshinaga-Itano
Dr. Chritine Yoshinaga-Itano is currently a professor in the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is internationally known for her research in language, speech, and social-emotional development of deaf and hard-of-hearing infants and children. She was fundamental in the establishment of universal newborn hearing screening and worked closely with Dr. Marion Downs. Also, along with a Kathy Arehart, an audiology colleague, she received a grant in 1996 for Universal Newborn Hearing Screening that established the Marion Downs Hearing Center. She has worked with many departments of education, public health agencies, schools for the deaf and blind, and early intervention programs throughout the United States and worldwide.