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. Approximately 7,000 people attended the 4-day conference from April 2 through April 5, according to AAA.

Brad Stach, PhD, (left) presents Daniel Christaan De Wet Swanepoel, PhD, with a commemoration of his presentation at the Marion Downs Lecture in Pediatric Audiology during the 2008 AudiologyNow! Standing to De Wet Swanepoel’s left is Downs and Jerry Northern, PhD. More than 400 people were drawn to the standing-room-only session. Charlotte WFAE-FM talk-show host Mike Collins chats with AAA Executive Director Cheryl Kreider Carey, President-elect Patrick Feeney, and President Alison Grimes during the General Assembly.
A choir of 27 audiologists sings “The Star-Spangled Banner” to open the General Assembly of the 2008 AudiologyNow! convention. Alison Grimes, left, and Helena Solodar, right, unveiled an artwork, sponsored by Widex, that chronicles 20 years of accomplishments in audiology.

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 educational program as “the most engaging that has ever been put together [in convention history].”

North Carolina: 20 years of accomplishments. 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 many 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, SC, in 1989 attracted 569 members, and a little more than a decade later, in 2001, the number of attendees had grown 10-fold to 5,962.

A special 3D shadowbox art piece and a time capsule to be opened in 20 years 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 it 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.

Current Academy initiatives. AAA President Alison Grimes joined Solodar and Collins for a discussion of current initiatives being undertaken by the Academy, including the fostering of future leadership, accreditation, 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 noted AAA is launching a new student organization for PhD and AuD candidates that will be organized into local chapters.

Rock climbing in misty evening weather was one of the activities at the US Whitewater Center, where attendees gathered for Celebrate Audiology, a special event marking the 20th anniversary of AAA. The 20th anniversary of the AAA convention also meant it was time to roast the Academy’s founder, James Jerger. Not only was he the subject of a humorous tribute song, “Acronym Jim,” at the Founders’ Dinner written by Charles Berlin, but he was also singled out during the General Assembly (shown here) as being someone who had to overcome a terrible stigma his entire career: Male Office Hottie (MOH).

Accreditation and education. 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 assure that future generations of audiologists will 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 1,500 total ABA-certified practitioners. Additionally, there are 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.

Roy Sullivan joins Charles Berlin at the keyboard to close the Founders Lunch. More than 100 people gathered for the event, which marked the 20th anniversary of the American Academy of Audiology. The founders of the Academy were honored at the AAA Founders Lunch. Included were (back row) James Hall, Robert Keith, Linda Hood, John Jacobson, Michael Dennis, Roger Ruth, Robert Harrison, Roy Sullivan, Don Worthington, Ross Roeser, David Citron, Tomi Browne; (front row) Gus Mueller, Fred Bess, Brad Stach, Jerry Northern, Laura Wilber, James Jerger, Susan Jerger, and Richard Talbott.

Reimbursement. 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) recognizes 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.

Direct access for Medicare patients. 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.

Hearing awareness. 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.

The memory of George S. Osborne was celebrated during the alumni dinner for the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO). Presentations by (from left) Tomi Browne, Gail Gudmundsen, and Anthony di Stefano honored Osborne, who passed away in June 2007. During the event, di Stefano announced PCO had become newly accredited as a university and the school’s college of audiology would be renamed the George S. Osborne College of Audiology. Gudmundsen announced the launch of a $1 million fund-raising initiative to ensure scholarships, support the Residential Doctor of Audiology degree program, and fund the mission of the new college, while Browne announced that a $100,000 pledge from Phonak had been the first contribution toward the new initiative. Osborne was also honored by the Larry Mauldin Award (see this month’s Industry Personalities).

President’s Awards. 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. 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.

Watercoolers heat things up. The General Assembly was punctuated by performances of The Watercoolers, a New York-based musical comedy group that creates hilarious songs and sketch comedy. The group performed musical sketches about airport travel (ie, singing “Delay” instead of “Day-o” to Harry Belafonte’s Banana Boat Song) and the travails of being an audiologist (see sidebar), 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.

New leadership at AAA. 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, who becomes the new AAA president at that 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.

Next Year. 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 through April 4. For more information, visit

The Watercoolers Rock AudiologyNOW!

The New York-based musical/comedy troupe The Watercoolers entertains during AudiologyNOW!

In one of their performances at the General Assembly, The Watercoolers performed a musical number, The Heroes of Hearing, about the perils of being a hearing care professional. Reprinted below with permission are the lyrics, sung to the tune of Freddie Mercury and the rock group Queen’s We Are the Champions:

We’ve seen some ears
In our careers
Some full of hair
With no grooming for years
And we’ve seen wax
Which must be removed first
Why can’t the PCP just clean it out—
He gets reimbursed
But we’re going on and on and on and on

We are the heroes of hearing
And we find the cerumen unendearing
We are the heroes
Heroes of hearing
The audiological
Ear scraping heroes
Of the world

Our sound-treated booths
Can get funky and smell
And when the cables are coiled up in knots
That can be hell
But it’s all worth it
‘Cause the feeling’s sublime
When we see a child hear her mother’s own voice
For the first time
But we’re going on and on and on and on

See the AAA Blog site that includes photos and film clips from the 2008 AudiologyNOW! convention by visiting

We are the heroes of hearing
When vertigo or deafness start appearing
We’ll use our talents!
Put you on balance!
‘Cause we are the audiological heroes
Of the world

We are the heroes, my friend
And we’ll keep helping people ’till the end
We are the heroes, heroes of hearing
The audiological, ear-loving heroes

Original lyrics by Freddie Mercury; parody lyrics by Jenn Doerr. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved. Used with permission. For more information or to book The Watercoolers, visit

NASED Presents Cole with Its Highest Honor

The NASED Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to William Cole (left) by NASED President Lance Brown.

Charlotte, NC—The National Association of Special Equipment Distributors (NASED) held its annual meeting on April 2 in conjunction with AudiologyNOW! NASED President Lance Brown presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to William (Bill) Cole (pictured on left) for his work in hearing aid circuit development, hearing aid testing standards, and test box and real ear measurement systems, and as the founder of Audioscan/Etymonic Design.

Mead Killion, PhD, a fellow engineer and Cole’s friend and colleague, provided a look at Cole’s impressive career, as well as his great impact on hearing aid and testing device technology. Throughout the presentation, Killion pointed out that Cole had a tendency to take up many different projects and humorously insinuated that he had a “hard time holding down a job.”

Cole started his career at Bell Northern Research, which was not far behind Bell Labs in manufacturing the first transistors. Later, at The NASED Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to William Cole (left) by NASED President Lance Brown. NASED Presents Cole with Its Highest Honor Westinghouse Canada, Cole helped design the first hearing aid integrated circuits (IC) with automatic gain control (AGC), a technology that would ultimately be used in millions of hearing aids. He then joined Unitron where he was instrumental in the development of the company’s first directional hearing instrument.

Joining Lin Technology Inc (LTI, which later became Gennum and is now Sound Design Technologies), Cole developed several hearing aid ICs, pre-amplifiers, AGC amplifiers, power output amplifiers, as well as a noise reduction circuit with level-dependent frequency response. According to Killion, about 90% of all hearing aids at one time used LTI components, and Cole’s contributions greatly improved the miniaturization and performance of hearing aids in the1970s and 1980s.

In 1983, Cole founded Etymonic Design in Dorchester, Ontario. Killion says that the two met as old friends at an ASHA meeting that year and exchanged business cards on the convention floor. They were soon laughing: Cole’s new company was named Etymonic Design and Killion’s new company was named Etymotic Research. “We quickly decided that was the least of our worries in starting up a new company, and we would each keep our own names,” says Killion. Cole went on to design one of the first programmable hearing aids for Dahlberg. He also developed the analog input/output for Project Phoenix, the world’s first digital hearing aid that was never launched commercially due to problems unrelated to Cole’s circuit (see Veronica Heidi’s article, “Digitally programmable hearing aids: a historical perspective” in the February 1996 HR). Also developed was an adaptive compression circuit for Telex.

Cole was part of the team of consultants that helped Killion develop the K-AMP circuit—arguably the most successful circuit technology of the 1980s and early 1990s, being employed in about 3.5 million hearing aids.

Cole also focused his attention at Etymonic Design on the development of the Audioscan test equipment. As digital hearing aids became more sophisticated—with digital noise reduction, digital feedback reduction, and multichannel compression circuits controlled by whether or not the hearing aid thought it was speech or noise in that channel—it became virtually impossible for anyone to decide whether the hearing aid was working properly or not. “Bill and his team introduced the revolutionary idea of using speech as the signal to trick the digital hearing aid into giving up its secrets,” says Killion. “If you think that is trivial, consider the extreme example of digital noise reduction: your trusty cell phone. If you try recording the output of a church choir on a cell phone, you will hear an occasional burst of music interrupted by silence as the ‘search and destroy’ noise reduction algorithm decides the music is not speech and shoots it down.

“In any case, the [Audioscan] SpeechMap addition gave us a simple, reliable way to determine how much gain the hearing id was providing for the speech sounds.

“Incidentally,” added Killion with a glimmer in his eye, “he has managed to hold down his present job for 25 years.”