CHARLOTTE, NC—The American Academy of Audiology (AAA) celebrated the 20th anniversary of its members meeting with music, fun, and a program that highlighted innovation and the Academy’s history.


The Academy’s General Session featured a unique blend of song, humor, as well as the traditional updating of members on Academy initiatives in a talk-show format. Hosted by Charlotte’s WFAE FM talk-show host Mike Collins, the interviews consisted of comments from leaders of AAA and talk-show banter from Collins.


Therese Walden, this year’s AudiologyNOW! program chair, was the first to be interviewed by Collins, and she provided an overview of the convention activities and characterized the event’s educational events as “the most engaging that has ever been put together [in convention history].”


Helena Solodar guided the general assembly audience through a tour of 20 years of Academy history, starting with James Jerger’s suggestion at the 1987 ASHA meeting that audiologists might want to form their own professional organization. A film, produced by Solodar and colleagues, chronicled all of the AAA conventions and initiatives, and included interviews with Jerger, James Hall, Michael Dennis, and many of AAA’s leaders and past presidents. Solodar pointed out that the 1st annual AAA Convention in Kiawah Island, NC, in 1989 attracted 569 members, and a little more than a decade later, in 2001, the number of attendees had grown 10-fold to 5962.


A special 3D shadowbox art piece and a time capsule to be opened 20 years from now were unveiled. The shadowbox art piece, underwritten by a grant from Widex, used photos and actual audiological instrumentation (eg, an old programming box) to show the progress of audiology and will be kept on display at the Academy’s headquarters in Washington DC. The time capsule contains an assortment of items relating to the progress of AAA, including minutes of board meetings, documents, photos, and other historic items.


AAA President Alison Grimes joined Solodar and Colllins for a discussion of current initiatives being undertaken by the Academy, including the fostering of future leadership, accredition, hearing awareness, legislative efforts, ethics, and professional standards.


Grimes says that AAA membership now stands at approximately 11,000 audiologists. She expressed a need for greater leadership among young members to grow the Academy, and AAA is launching the American Student Academy of Audiology, an organization for PhD and AuD candidates that will be organized into local chapters.


Washington University in St Louis was announced by Grimes as the second university to be approved for accreditation by the Accreditation Commission for Audiology Education (ACAE), following Central Michigan University’s approval announced at last year’s AudiologyNOW! convention. The ACAE was founded 5 years ago and was tasked by the Academy with establishing academic standards that assured that future generations of audiologists would be trained at the highest levels of competence. AAA views ACAE as an opportunity for audiology to fully integrate the educational foundation of the profession into its vision for autonomy, and the ACAE has reportedly developed policies and procedures consistent with the US Department of Education and the Council of Higher Education Accreditation Guidelines. According to Grimes, the ACAE will now go to Washington DC to have its accreditation process approved by education regulators.


Additionally, AAA will convene an educational summit in January 2009 in Orlando on Gold Standards in Audiology. At this conference, says Grimes, experts in clinical practice and accreditation standards will meet to discuss how gold standard outcomes can be developed for graduate student programs throughout the nation.


The American Board of Audiology (ABA) celebrated its 10th birthday at AudiologyNOW! 2008 and announced that it now has 1500 total ABA certified practitioners. Additionally, there are also 60 certificants in the ABA’s Board Certification in Audiology with a Specialty in Cochlear Implants program. A special $75,000 grant from Starkey Laboratories was presented for the ABA Pediatric Audiology Specialty Certification initiative that has as its honorary chair Marion Downs.


Next year’s AudiologyNOW! 2009 in Dallas will feature a special day-ahead research conference that focuses on one topic related to translational research. On April 1, 2009, the Inaugural Academy Research Conference titled “Otoacoustic Emissions: Improving Practice Through Science” will bring clinicians and researchers together to share their perspectives on where the field currently is and where it needs to go in the application of OAEs in clinical practice. The program will be chaired by Brenda Lonsbury-Martin.


On the reimbursement front, Grimes presented a “Good News, Bad News” scenario. The good news, she says, is that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recognize that audiologists should be paid for both cognitive and technical components of their work. The bad news is that reimbursement for audiology services is likely to decrease by 2010. Although the Academy has done everything in its power to stop the impending decreases in reimbursement, according to Grimes, it has limited influence because ASHA holds the seat and is recognized by CMS as the primary professional organization representing audiology.


AAA President-elect Patrick Feeney, who is also the chair of the organization’s Government Relations Committee, detailed the efforts behind the Academy’s efforts relative to the “Hearing Health Care Enhancement Act of 2007.”A bipartisan measure, HR 1165 would allow Medicare beneficiaries the option of going directly to a qualified audiologist for hearing and balance diagnostic tests. Currently, Medicare beneficiaries with hearing loss or balance disorders are required to obtain a physician referral before seeing an audiologist. This bill calls for aligning Medicare “direct access” with programs administered by the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Veterans Affairs, which allow patients to see an audiologist without a physician referral. Currently, Feeney says there are 80 cosponsors for the bill.


AAA will continue with its award-winning “Turn It to the Left” hearing awareness campaign, according to Grimes. Recognizing that the risk of permanent hearing loss from noise exposure is very real for individuals of all ages, AAA has initiated the campaign to raise public awareness about the dangers of exposure to high-level sound and to raise funds in support of noise-induced hearing loss research. The name of the initiative originated from a rap song, called “Turn It to the Left” , about noise-induced hearing loss written by musician Benjamin Jackson that was showcased at last year’s convention.


Grimes presented Academy President’s Awards to Solodar for her work in assembling the Academy’s history; the late Margaret (Margo) Skinner to commemorate a career of “passion for the profession, research, and life”; Carmen Brewer for her work with Ted Glattke on ACAE accreditation initiatives; Christine Yoshinaga-Itano, for her research and work on Joint Committee on Infant Hearing (JCIH) initiatives; and outgoing Audiology Today Editor Jerry Northern and JAAA Editor James Jerger for their excellent work on the respective AAA publications. David Fabry has been named the new editor of AT.


A special Honors & Awards Banquet was held during the first night of the convention, and this will be reported on in more detail in the next edition of The Insider. Honored this year were Larry Humes, PhD, who received the James Jerger Career Award for Research in Audiology, and Distinguished Achievement Awards were presented to Kristina English, PhD; Judith Gravel, PhD; Roger Ruth, PhD; Jon Shallop, PhD; and Robert Sweetow, PhD. Receiving the Humanitarian Award was Howard Weinstein, MBA.


The General Assembly was punctuated by performances of The Watercoolers, a New York based musical comedy group that delivers hilarious songs and sketch comedy to corporate, association, and convention audiences. The group performed musical sketches about airport travel (ie, singing “Delay” instead of “Day-o” to Harry Belefonte’s Banana Boat Song), the travails of being an audiologist (sung to Queen’s We Are the Champions, and a song about the perils of a terrible business stigma usually known simply as MOH: male office hottie. During this last musical number, James Jerger was identified as one obvious example of a MOH and joined the singer onstage to the delight of the audience.


Kris English, PhD, will assume the role as the new president-elect of the Academy on July 1, 2008, succeeding current President-elect Patrick Feeney, PhD, when he becomes AAA president at that same time.


Joining AAA’s Board of Directors are Deborah Carlson, PhD, Lawrence Eng, AuD, and Georgine Ray, AuD. Kimberly Barry, AuD, will serve a 1-year term, replacing Dr English when she assumes the role of president-elect in July. Other current board members include President Alison Grimes, AuD; President-elect Patrick Feeney, PhD; Past-president Paul Pessis, AuD; Carmen Brewer, PhD; Erin Miller, AuD; Therese Walden, AuD; Bopanna Ballachandra, PhD; Thomas Littman, PhD; Karen Jacobs, AuD; Pat Kricos, PhD; and Gary Jacobson, PhD.


In 2009, AudiologyNOW! journeys to Dallas where it will hold its first Academy Research Conference on April 1, the day before the regular part of the convention begins. Following this conference, AudiologyNOW! 2009 will kick off and be held from April 2-4. For more information, visit