Angela Fulbright is balancing a full plate as mom, doctoral student, tinnitus researcher and U.S. Army captain
By Michelle Champalanne
Balancing a full-time graduate education, motherhood, marriage and a captain position in the U.S. Army isn’t just a busy day, it’s every day for Angela Fulbright, Au.D. So how does she do it?
“There’s a lot of teamwork involved,” she said, referring to her marriage and her husband’s support. “And on top of that, I am surrounded by a team at the University of Florida.”
In 2013, Fulbright, came to Gainesville to pursue her Ph.D. in audiology and speech-language pathology. A second-year doctoral student, Fulbright is nearly halfway done with her three-year track. Attending UF allowed her to be only two hours away from her hometown, Tampa, and remain close to her family.
Two years ago, Fulbright and her husband, Arthur, adopted a 5-year-old boy. After experiencing some fertility problems, they decided to look into the foster care system, where they found young Alexander.
“It’s a nice combination being able to be close to my family for three years and having the opportunity for them to get to know their grandson a little better,” she said.
Because of her audiology experience in the military, Fulbright was interested in expanding her knowledge of tinnitus — ringing in the ears — and looking for different ways to evaluate and treat this common injury among soldiers.
“In the VA, tinnitus is No. 2 in complaints that the VA receives,” she said. “Hearing loss is No. 1. They go hand-
Fulbright has been an active member of the U.S. Army for more than 12 years. She began as a linguist stationed in places such as California, Texas and Germany, and she was deployed to Iraq for 10 months.
She returned to the field of audiology at Fort Polk, Louisiana. Fulbright then moved on to Fort Hood, Texas, as an assistant chief, her most recent position. At Fort Hood, Fulbright’s primary role was to determine whether soldiers met the deployment standards for hearing. She also provided education to the soldiers on hearing loss prevention and fit them with hearing protection devices for use in combat. Fulbright’s secondary role was developing and maintaining a tinnitus management program.
“Tinnitus is very interesting to me because no two tinnitus patients are alike,” she said. “It’s fascinating to me to figure out what’s different about their injury, their complaints and how they cope with tinnitus.”
Her mentor, Edward Lobarinas, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the department of speech, language and hearing sciences, is working with students on noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus. Fulbright is Lobarinas’ first Ph.D. student to help out in his lab. In just a short period of time, Lobarinas already has full confidence in Fulbright.
“She’s just outstanding,” he said. “I am thoroughly impressed.”
Her current research group is examining how specific sites of injury to the auditory system affect results on audiological tests. Previous findings have shown that these injuries do not necessarily cause dramatic changes on the audiogram — a traditional hearing test given by doctors to examine hearing loss — but may affect other higher-level abilities.
“Any little bit of progress that we make will be helpful,” she said. “There are so many questions at this point.”
Once she completes her degree, Fulbright hopes to continue her research on hearing loss and tinnitus through the Army. A cure may not be found, but she is working hard to provide as much research as she can.
“Hopefully I can unravel just a piece of the puzzle,” she said.