During an internship at Hearing SA, Laura Drexler (MAUD ’20) was inspired to develop the Ambient Menu, a website that guides hearing impaired people and their families to conversation-friendly restaurants where they can connect and remain social.
As she made the transition from her long-time career in emergency services to the world of allied health during her Masters of Audiology in 2019, it was her research project on the topic of commensality, the act of sharing a meal with others, that first triggered the idea.
“We investigated how hearing loss affected family dinners,” Laura says.
“Interestingly, all the participants spoke of how much they struggled to hear in lively restaurants, not of home dinners.
“I thought to myself, ‘surely there is a website that guides people to quieter eateries’ that I can direct my future patients to – unfortunately, there wasn’t, so I started it myself!”
The Ambient Menu was born. Hearing impairment is associated with social isolation, reduced quality of life and even dementia, so by encouraging patients to remain socially active, the consequences of hearing loss are minimised – along with the restaurant industry inadvertently being supported.
“Seeing the benefits my care has on my patients is a personal highlight,” Laura says.
“When they call to thank me and say they are out socialising again and reconnecting with family, I know I am doing what I was born to do.”
Trying to make a difference in the community has been front of mind throughout Laura’s entire career, first starting out as a fresh-faced police officer at 19. She then side-stepped to SA Ambulance to work as a paramedic and after 20 years, reinvented herself once again, transitioning from pre-hospital care to allied health, where she remains now as an audiologist with an independent audiology clinic.
“I enjoy getting to know to my patients, hearing their stories, understanding their struggle and doing what I can to help them,” she says.
“My goal is to hire a team of acoustic consultants to expand the Ambient Menu and go national. Everyone will then have the benefit if they wish.”
Laura Drexler was awarded a 2022 Early Career Alumni Award for significant research that promotes and protects hearing health and the development of innovative communication strategies, including the Ambient Menu.