An all-audiology choir opened the festivities during the 2015 AudiologyNOW! General Assembly.

Events | May 2015 Hearing Review


The American Academy of Audiology (AAA) AudiologyNOW! 2015 convention kicked off its full slate of events on March 13 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio. Each year the convention provides a forum for audiologists to see the latest products, services, and technologies, including an exhibit hall featuring offerings from over 170 companies, universities, and organizations.

AudiologyNOW! 2015 Convention Chair Helena Solodar.

AudiologyNOW! 2015 Convention Chair Helena Solodar.

During the AAA General Assembly, AudiologyNOW! 2015 Convention Chair Helena Solodar, AuD, said that this year’s educational offerings included 34 featured sessions, 96 learning modules, 36 research podiums, 43 industry updates, 20 exhibitor courses, 20 educational sessions for students, and over 200 clinical research posters. “Whatever your practice setting is, I’m sure you will find your way to steer through this conference that awaits you,” said Solodar. “The conference theme for this year is ‘steer with success.’ We understand that each of you has your own definition and benchmark for success. So we invite you to find all the educational sessions and networking opportunities that our program committee has helped us create to lead you closer to the success that we wish you will achieve here in San Antonio.”

Prior to the convention, the Academy Research Conference (ARC) encompassed a full day of information on “Vestibular Assessment and Rehabilitation.” Chaired by Devin McCaslin, PhD, the event featured topics ranging from “Epidemiology of Age-Related Vestibular Loss” to “Pediatric Vestibular Assessment.”

AAA President Elect, Larry Eng, who hails from Hawaii, chats with President Erin Miller during the General Assembly.

AAA President-elect Larry Eng, who hails from Hawaii, chats with President Erin Miller during the General Assembly.

At the General Assembly, AAA President Erin Miller, AuD, thanked the Academy’s corporate sponsors for their support and recognized international attendees, military audiologists, members of the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as the Academy team that has provided countless hours to the profession. “Our Academy mission is to promote quality hearing and balance care by advancing the profession through leadership, education, advocacy, public awareness, and research. Basically, the purpose of this Academy is to elevate the profession and support our members in their practice.

“At the close of 2014 the Academy had 12,024 members,” continued Miller. “I want to thank all of our members for supporting our mission of providing superior care for individuals with hearing, tinnitus, and balance disorders, and for representing our profession so well in your community, and making a difference in people’s lives every day.”

Tanya Tolpegin, MBA, who took the reins as AAA’s executive director in September, said that it was energizing to be part of the Academy and to work with the Program Committee to help bring AudiologyNOW! to San Antonio. She encouraged members to remain involved with the Academy—whether in joining committees or simply taking time to respond to surveys—and through AAA’s affiliated organizations, the American Board of Audiology (ABA), the AAA Foundation (AAAF), the Accreditation Commission for Audiology Education (ACAE), and the Student Academy of Audiology (SAA).

AAA Executive Director Tanya Tolpegin.

AAA Executive Director Tanya Tolpegin.

A series of video presentations followed that summarized these four organization’s current activities by their respective leaders:

  • ABA Chair John Coverstone highlighted several issues revealed by the 2015 ABA Practice Analysis of Clinical Audiology survey that has led to new standards and a training program for clinical instructors.
  • Angela Shoup of the AAA Foundation talked about audiology philanthropy and philanthropists who “shine a light on the difference that quality audiology makes on the lives of our patients.”
  • SAA President Laura Chenier talked about how the student organization has built strong relationships with local chapters, leading to new initiatives in education, fundraising, advocacy, research, and worldwide humanitarian projects. She says SAA celebrated record membership in 2015, as well as helped support students with scholarships and grants.
  • Lisa Hunter, chair of the ACAE, announced that the University of Texas at Dallas has received ACAE full program accreditation. She said that there is no more important standard than accreditation for the audiology profession. The ACAE also conferred developing status for a new program at the University of the Pacific near San Francisco which will be holding its first classes this fall. California currently has one other program that grants a doctorate in audiology (AuD) degree, a joint program of San Diego State and UC San Diego that graduates about 10 audiologists a year. According to a recent announcement from Pacific (December 18, 2014 HR online news), its program is expected to educate nearly half of the estimated 55 new audiologists who will be needed each year to keep pace with anticipated statewide demand.

President Miller presented a AAA Presidential Award to Gloria Garner, AuD, a cochlear implant audiologist at the University Healthcare System of Augusta, Ga, for Garner’s work on the Ethical Practices Committee both as a member and in her two terms as committee chair which ends in June.

Alan Desmond, AuD, was presented a Presidential Award by Miller for his tenacious involvement in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of individuals with vestibular disorders and his membership on the Practice Policy Advisory Council (PPAC) and Relative Value Unit (RVU) Update Committee, as well as his involvement with key CMS staff.

Finally, Miller presented AAA Former-president Debra Carlson, AuD, a Presidential Award for her recent work leading the executive director search committee and for accepting the task of reviewing a subset of the Academy’s policies and procedures.

The Academy also honored local San Antonio hero Emma Faye Rudkin, who is a hearing-impaired honor student at UTSA, has mastered three musical instruments, and was named Miss San Antonio in February.

President-elect Larry Eng joined Miller in a conversation about the upcoming goals and initiatives of the Academy, including the PPAC. Eng explained that the PPAC is charged with representing audiology issues and maintaining a presence on the American Medical Association’s RUC-HCPAC (the RVS Update Committee and Health Care Professionals Advisory Committee) and the CPT Editorial Panel. Essentially, these are the committees that create new procedural codes to determine the value of services once a CPT codes is established. Eng said that former AAA President Paul Pessis, AuD, represented the AAA PPAC in San Diego at the RUC-HCPAC meeting, and took a leading role. “I was impressed, but more importantly, many other specialties attending the RUC commended our team for their excellent representation of the profession of audiology,” said Eng. “Maybe, most significant, I saw how effective collaboration [between the organizations] is beneficial. Our colleagues from the PPAC worked alongside representatives of the Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS), the American Academy of Neurology, and the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) on a well-received presence.”

Miller emphasized that AAA has collaborated with many hearing-related organizations in the past year and will continue to do so in the future. According to Eng, the Academy’s Board of Directors has been working on the re-evaluation of a “roadmap” designed to take the profession where it needs to go, including a set of “preferred futures” and objectives with an approximate 3-year horizon.

Miller acknowledged that, due to the partisan climate in Washington, DC, there is little hope of achieving legislative progress in terms of advocacy at this particular time: “I think the Board has recognized that there is a shift that is needed in what we’ve been doing over the past 10 years. Let’s face it: it’s difficult to get anything done in Washington, DC. So we want to focus on some more foundational work—work with our regulatory agencies, as well as some other state activities.” Eng emphasized that AAA needs its members to work with state Academies, leaders, and licensing boards to help ensure that all state licensure laws have “contemporary language which allow audiologists to function to their full scope of practice.”

Staff Sargeant (ret) Shiloh Harris told of his recovery from wounds he received in the War in Iraq and how audiologists and hearing aids played an important role in his life.

Staff Sargeant (ret) Shiloh Harris told of his recovery from wounds he received in the War in Iraq and how audiologists and hearing aids played an important role in his life.

The AAA General Session keynote was presented by Staff Sergeant (retired) Shilo Harris. Harris’s Humvee hit an IED while on patrol in Iraq during his second tour in February 2007. In a heartbreaking account, Harris described how the blast took from him his ears, part of his nose, some fingers, and over a third of the skin on his body—along with three of his best friends. Harris told of his agonizing road to recovery, which began with nearly 2 months in a medically induced coma, and included hearing loss as one of the most debilitating and emotionally painful challenges he needed to overcome. Sponsored by Siemens/Sivantos, Harris later signed copies of his book, Steel Will: My Journey Through Hell to Become the Man I was Meant to Be (Baker Books), at the Siemens booth. As a testament to the impact of his speech, the line for meeting him extended half-way around the perimeter of the booth on the exhibit floor.

Next year. The 2016 AudiologyNOW! Convention will be held April 13-16 in Phoenix, Ariz. For more information, visit