Helen Keller once said, “Blindness separates people from things; deafness separates people from people.”
It is this human connection that inspired Carolyn Smaka, AuD, to devote her career to hearing health and the advancement of the audiology field.
"Hearing is crucial to communication, and we’re social animals; it’s why we’re here,” said Smaka, editor in chief for continued and longtime editor of continued's AudiologyOnline. “We often take our hearing for granted. Most people don’t think about their hearing until there’s a problem with it, but hearing is truly what connects us with others.”
As editor in chief, Smaka oversees the editorial team for continued's family of online continuing education websites, which offer educational content on the latest topics in audiology, speech-language pathology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and early childhood education. The editorial team works with leading experts across these disciplines to produce more than 500 courses per year and serve thousands of professionals annually.
“I’m proud to be part of a company that can support professionals through change and not only help them survive but thrive.”
Smaka’s path to audiology began with an undergraduate degree in linguistics from Binghamton University and a graduate degree in speech-language pathology from Hunter College. Although she enjoyed her work with patients as a speech-language pathologist, she felt drawn to audiology.
“I wanted to stay in a helping profession and liked the immediate benefits that audiology treatment can often provide to patients,” Smaka said. With the encouragement of a mentor, she pursued a master’s degree in audiology and later earned her doctorate degree in audiology from A.T. Still University.
After practicing audiology in various clinical settings for a number of years, she left patient care for a 9-year career at Siemens, now Signia, a world leader in hearing aid manufacturing.
“Treating hearing loss with amplification is life changing for patients. It was exciting to be a part of where the technology was going at the time,” said Smaka, who joined Siemens at the dawn of digital hearing aids. “I saw the difference hearing aids made in patients’ lives every day and wanted to be on the ground floor of the advancements being made.”
Combining her expertise gained as a practicing audiologist and in the hearing aid industry, Smaka joined continued as editor of AudiologyOnline just over a decade ago and now serves as editor in chief for continued's multiple professions.
Her son, now in college, was in his early elementary school years at the time, and she wanted a position that was engaging yet offered flexibility to be more involved in his life.
“This role has allowed me to see my son after school, be involved in his activities, and give him opportunities to pursue things he loved while still serving the field I love,” Smaka said.
Smaka joined continued when audiology and speech-language pathology were the company’s only specialties and says she’s proud of continued's growth in recent years.
“We now have even more exciting professionals to work with, and we have amazing company leaders and incredible editors who all feel very passionate about their profession,” Smaka said.
As the landscape of the audiology field changes, Smaka feels that audiologists need more guidance and peer-to-peer engagement than ever before.
“Our team is full of A players, and the presenters and authors we work with are distinguished experts in their professions.”
“I’m proud to be part of a company that can support professionals through change and not only help them survive but thrive,” Smaka said. “Our team is full of A players, and the presenters and authors we work with are distinguished experts in their professions.”
Smaka volunteers on the Outreach Council for the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) and the Education Committee for the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA). A tireless advocate for people with hearing loss, Smaka supports the Audiology Patient Choice Act and other advocacy efforts on behalf of the field. She is the 2015 recipient of the Joel Wernick Award, given by the ADA in recognition of an outstanding educational contribution within the profession of audiology and hearing science.
Smaka lives in New Jersey with her husband and son. She is a registered yoga instructor (RYT-200) and says she takes any opportunity in her personal and professional life to get people engaged in their wellness.