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Audiologist turns own loss into giving back

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Dr. Angelica Rodriguez is pictured at WESST’s (Women’s Economic Self Sufficiency Team) Go! Latinas event on Aug. 17, where she shared her story of how and why she became an audiologist. (Alison Penn Photo)

After experiencing hearing loss, Dr. Angelica Rodriguez decided to become an audiologist to help others in similar situations.

Pictured is Dr. Angelica Rodriguez, who became an audiologist after facing her own hearing loss diagnosis. (Submitted Photo)

Rodriguez was diagnosed with hearing loss in sixth grade, which she said was a “bad experience.” The year before the diagnosis, Rodriguez said her family rolled their van after hitting some black ice when traveling during Christmastime. She attributes her hearing loss to her injuries from this accident since she passed her hearing test the year before, but failed the one following the accident.

Down the road, an audiologist helped Rodriguez, who was 16 at the time, to better understand her circumstances.

“She just made me feel better about my hearing loss and I thought — I really want to be that for somebody else,” Rodriguez said. “I want to be that person that makes people understand that a hearing loss is not necessarily a disability. It’s a hindrance. It’s a pain. It’s a nuisance, but it’s not something that’s going to prevent you from doing anything, from living your life. …”

At first, Rodriguez planned to be a veterinarian and changed her path to focus on becoming an audiologist. She graduated cum laude in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in communication disorders from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) and a member of the American Board of Audiology.

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Music is one of her passions and she participated in her college’s marching band for two years where she had to try out to be in halftime shows and ended up performing in all of them. When she transferred to health and sciences, she wasn’t able to participate anymore.

Before this, Rodriguez played clarinet, saxophone and keyboards in jazz band in high school and participated in her middle school band. She also played piano, was in choir and sings at church with her mother. She is a living example of how hobbies like music can still be enjoyed in light of a hearing disorder and she encourages others to continue their hobbies if their situation allows it.

A born-and-raised Roswellite, Rodriguez, 35, graduated 12th in her class from Roswell High School in 2003 and before that attended Mesa Middle School and Edgewood and Valley View elementary schools, where her mother was a teacher.

On Jan. 1, Rodriguez will be celebrating the fifth birthday of her business, Dr. Rodriguez Audiology & Hearing Center at 1000 W. Fourth St. After eight years of school and an externship in Alamogordo, Rodriguez was hired in 2011 by the audiologist who helped her as a teen, and eventually this led to Rodriguez buying the business in 2015.

“I’ve been able to help those who helped me,” she said. “I have a lot of patients that were actually my teachers when I was in school, a lot of patients that are family friends. And so, that’s really rewarding, too, to know that they’re having a hard time and I can pay it back. I can pay what they gave me, their time and their energy, to teach me something or help out with the family or whatever, and so I can help them in a way they need, too.”

Rodriguez was invited to speak at Go! Latinas, the fourth annual conference held by WESST (formerly known as Women’s Empowerment and Self-Sufficiency Team), on Aug. 17 and has shared her story at several other talks in the community. Since she wears amplification for her own hearing, Rodriguez said her patients appreciate her integrity and empathy in her practice. She tries new technology firsthand and added that she would not give her patients anything she would not personally use.

Rodriguez has been married to her husband Jacob for seven years and they have four dogs that are their “fur babies.” The couple volunteers together with their Youth ChalleNGe drumline “family” and hopes to continue this work. She said the drumline is increasing in popularity and last year 100 kids auditioned for the nine drumline spots.

Her parents and examples in life are “golden voice” broadcaster David Gonzalez, who passed away in the spring, and Mary Gonzalez, who is the choir director at Goddard High School and was also featured in the Sunday Spotlight in October. She said quality time with her family is very important and they continue to help each other in their various ways of being involved in the community.

Rodriguez said it has been a “hard transition” losing her father in May, due to an unexpected heart attack and complications from triple bypass surgery.

In memory of her father, Rodriguez said the family plans on hosting an annual David Gonzalez Memorial Run to raise awareness about heart health. The first one, a 1-mile walk or run, was held this year with the Eastern New Mexico Medical Center’s Turkey Trot on Nov. 23. She said a representative from the American Heart Foundation spoke with the large group of attendees and answered heart-health related questions.

“That’s kind of been my goal in life is to be like my parents, and to be as involved in the community and as well known, and as loved as they are in the community,” Rodriguez said. “That’s been the other thing, too, is the outpour of love from Roswell about my dad has been absolutely amazing and appreciated.

“So many people were affected by his death and it’s just amazing how many lives he touched, how many lives my mom has touched and I hope to only — if I could just be half of that, it would be awesome. I want to do more, but it’s just — they’re pretty amazing people.”

Special projects reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.