Thank you, Dr. Holmes

Thank you, Dr. Holmes

UF audiologist, educator retires after more than 30 years at UF Health

By Ansley Pentz
Alice Holmes, Professor of Audiology, Department of Speech Language and Hearing Sciences

Alice Holmes, Professor of Audiology, Department of Speech Language and Hearing Sciences

When Alice Holmes, Ph.D., programs a child’s cochlear implant, the room is full of tears.

Cochlear implants, medical devices that replicate the function of the inner ear, help people whose inner ears have been damaged to hear again.

The tears come for a few reasons. The child is usually scared of the sound. Parents cry because their child can hear — either again or for the first time.

“And we’re crying because it’s such a wonderful thing to be a part of,” the UF Health audiologist said.

A professor of audiology in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions’ department of speech, language and hearing sciences, Holmes considers her teaching career a large part of her legacy at UF. She was instrumental in starting the Doctor of Audiology program, which was founded in 1998.
Holmes also started the Doctor of Audiology distance-learning program, which allowed working professionals with master’s-level training to earn a doctorate.

“We have graduated more than 1,700 students with audiology degrees, and I am extremely proud of that,” Holmes said.

Over the years, Holmes has also chaired or co-chaired 14 Ph.D. students.

After working at UF for 34 years, Holmes, who was hired in what was then the UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ department of speech, will retire in June. Initially, Holmes planned to stay at UF for two years.

“Obviously that didn’t happen,” she said. “Florida doesn’t have my two favorite things, which are mountains and winter sports, but I’ve adapted. I love going to the beach and going fishing.”

While Florida didn’t allow for her to ski as often she’d like, she said she loved the people she worked with, her students and the great opportunities for cochlear implant research. Holmes was involved in the early stages of programming cochlear implants, which help deaf or severely hard-of-hearing patients perceive sound.

In 1985, she was part of UF’s team that participated in the original FDA trials evaluating the efficacy of multichannel cochlear implants in adult patients. That year, the team gave the first person in the Southeast a multichannel implant.

Since that first programming, Holmes has done hundreds of cochlear implant hookups. Sometimes adults with hearing loss haven’t heard their family in three months. Sometimes they haven’t heard them in 40 years.

“When they first hear sound again and can hear a family member say, ‘I love you,’ it will get to you every time,” she said.

Holmes’s work at the university stems beyond cochlear implant hook ups: In addition to her work setting up the Doctor of Audiology degree program and the distance-learning program, Holmes has spearheaded a medical service project on the Yucatan Peninsula. For the past 14 years, students and faculty have conducted audiology tests on children who do not have access to them.

If the child needs help hearing, the team then refers the child’s parents to a local nonprofit that helps connect the child’s parents to tutors that will teach them how to work with their child. The trips give UF students great medical experience, Holmes said.

While Holmes will like having more opportunities to ski, backpack and full-body surf when she retires, she’ll miss UF.

“I’ve been lucky because I told my own children, ‘Pick a job that you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life,’” she said.

And that’s what she did.