While Barbara Blattstein enjoyed plenty of different aspects of her time as an audiologist, one part of the job always stuck out.
“I liked how it made me feel like Sherlock Holmes,” she said. “You have to solve the mystery of why isn’t this child speaking or reacting to noises. It could be something like fluid in the ear or something more permanent. And then once we figured it out, it would be time to figure out how to best help the family get care, as well as understand and deal with whatever was causing the problem.”
Blattstein has been a fan of mysteries for awhile, especially the Jeremy Brett television portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, and she recently secured quite a bit of free time for mysteries as she retired from Jawonio after 32 years, the last 13 as the director of audiology.
It was originally for rather personal reasons that brought Blattstein to audiology, as well as Jawonio. She and her husband lived in the Bronx and Blattstein was working as a teacher when her first son was born with profound hearing loss. She took her son to the New York League For The Hard of Hearing, now known as the Center for Hearing and Communication, where a friend told her about Jawonio. She wasn’t too familiar with the organization or with Rockland County, but enrolled her son in the kindergarten program.
Blattstein was so taken with Jawonio and audiology that she went back to school and earner her master’s in audiology. To get her license, she completed a nine-month fellowship at Jawonio, and was then hired as a clinical audiologist.
“They already had a reputation for providing high quality services,” she said. “I already knew a lot of people there, and they’re all very professional and caring people. They were very welcoming when I first brought my son in, and then when I joined the staff.”
In her time with Jawonio, Blattstein said she’s been pleased with the advances she’s seen. When her family first moved here, only the East Ramapo School District had a program for the hearing impaired, and bussed children in from other districts. She said now all districts do. Another advance was working with Nyack Hospital to screen babies for any potential hearing impairments. Blattstein also opened the Jawonio Health Center in 1995 and was the division director of diagnostics and health care between stints as director of audiology.
“Audiology was my first love, so I wanted to go back to it,” she said.
In 2002, Blattstein was voted the "unsung hero" at the American Academy of Audiologists Convention in Texas, selected out of 12,000 audiologists.
In addition to audiology, what Blattstein is best known for around Jawonio is her poetry. She often writes poems for coworkers and reads them at retirement parties, or if they’ve recently had a baby or gotten married. She wrote herself a poem for her own retirement party, and while she said it felt a little weird, she did make sure to reference Sherlock Holmes.
Blattstein retired just about two weeks ago and said she’s still cleaning.
“It was hard to say goodbye to all my coworkers, but especially to my patients,” she said. “Some of them are adults who I diagnosed as children. They were able to grow up doing any of the things other children would do.”
Her own son used Jawonio’s services into his adult life, continuing to go there for testing and hearing aids. He graduated from Binghamton and now has a family of his own while practicing as an optometrist. He lives near Albany while her younger son and his family live in Spokane, WA.
Between her two sons, Blattstein has six grandchildren, all of whom she plans on seeing quite a bit in her retirement. She added that she’s also hoping to exercise a bit more, take a writing class, do some volunteer work and much more. She and her husband, who is also retired, are also big fans of the opera and the Yankees, so they’ll have more time to enjoy both of those, while also looking to do some traveling.
“I’m already signed up for an Israeli folk dancing class,” she said. “I’m a type A. I’ll find things to do.”