Inside the Research | August 2022 Hearing Review

By Kathryn Sutherland, Editor-in-Chief

Kathryn Sutherland: Welcome, Alissa. You’ve been working as the executive director of the International Hearing Society (IHS) since February of this year. What has this new vantage point in the industry revealed to you about hearing healthcare?

Parady: Well, thanks so much. I am so thrilled to be able to talk to you today. The fact is, I’ve always understood the value and importance of hearing healthcare. I had my own experience with hearing loss, and in the last 11 years prior to moving into this role, I was serving as a government affairs director. As such, I was very connected to what was going on in the industry with the other professional groups and consumers. So, I’ve really understood where the needs are and where we’re headed. And so now what’s exciting is I get to help connect those dots internally, so we’re providing more holistic care to our members, and it gives our association the opportunity to better address the day-to-day challenges and opportunities that hearing aid specialists and business owners face.

Sutherland: Can you share what the society’s long-term objectives are?

Parady: Absolutely. From the long-term perspective, we are always committed to growing the profession. We know that the demand for hearing healthcare is continuing to increase, and we could help meet that demand. And so, as we have, say, governmental programs that are looking at expanding benefits such as Medicare, we know that hearing aid specialists need to be a part of that – so advocacy’s been very important on that side of things. We’re also dedicated to growing the resources and tools that our members need to be successful. And we want to give members greater opportunities to participate in the work that we do in the profession so they can develop personally and as leaders. We also want to make sure that we’re providing solutions to some of those challenges we know that small business ownership can pose for hearing aid specialists and audiologists who dispense.

Sutherland: What would you like our readers to know about IHS members?

Parady: Something that some readers may not realize is that IHS is a professional association for any professional who dispenses hearing aids. And so, we are the only association that represents hearing aid specialists, but we also have many members who are dispensing audiologists. What we focus on is providing services, tools, and resources that pertain specifically to hearing aid delivery. And so, we welcome anybody who’s looking for that focused level of engagement and looking for services that will help them grow their business or grow their practice or professional abilities.

Sutherland: You may have answered some of this, so why should a hearing healthcare professional join IHS?

Parady: As I said, IHS does specialize in education, professional development, and offering resources that specifically pertain to the delivery of hearing aids and related services. The benefit to participating with IHS as a member is really to be able to stay connected to what’s going on in the space around us. And we know that there’s a lot going on right now with over-the-counter hearing aids coming, and managed care playing a bigger role, and with the possibility of Medicare covering hearing aids. There is also being more research being done related to hearing loss and its effects, so it’s so important for somebody who is working day to day with patients to understand what’s going on around them, beyond the four walls of their clinic, and connect them with that research. We also want hearing aid business owners to be able to take advantage of the tools that we have to offer, such as compliance-related tools to make sure that they’re operating within the confines of the law or marketing tools that can help speak to some of those other influencers outside of their vantage point.

Sutherland: Okay. And you mentioned that previously you worked as a director of government affairs for IHS. Can you share what’s happened to IHS advocacy since you are now the executive director?

Parady: Well, for a little bit of time, I was balancing my new duties as executive director and making sure that our advocacy functions were still operating and we were staying engaged on some of those really hot issues on the federal side, and certainly what’s going on in the states and provinces. I’m pleased that just a few weeks ago, we had a new government affairs director come on board with IHS named Sean Drake. Sean is getting up to speed on hearing healthcare, and fortunately comes from the medical healthcare arena and has great experience on Capitol Hill. So, I feel like government affairs are in great hands and should be running quite smoothly.

Sutherland: What are your proudest accomplishments since working at IHS?

Parady: Honestly, many of those have come just in the last few months in getting to work more closely with all our different team members to grow the organization in a way that I think will position IHS and its members for future success. Historically, based on the work I did in my role as government affairs director, I was very proud to have two bills passed through Congress. Those were the first bills that IHS had passed, and they were accomplished through collaborative efforts that comprised the involvement of our members, veteran service organizations and partners in the industry. So, it was really exciting to have those move forward and be such a successful member-driven project.

 I would also say, even in the last year, we worked very hard to have hearing aid specialists included in the proposed language to expand hearing coverage under Medicare. While the prospects of that bill right now are not looking great, hearing aid specialists have been included in the language that is pending in the Senate. That really is a testament to the value of hearing aid specialists in the delivery of hearing care and their ability to help with accessibility issues as qualified providers.

Sutherland: Tell me about your annual convention. When is it and why would someone want to come out for the 70th Annual IHS Convention this year?

Parady: It is taking place September 15-17 in San Antonio, Texas, and there are lots of reasons to come, to include the fact that we’ve developed tracks this year, which is new. We’ve got something for everyone, so if you are a clinician who is looking for a deep dive into clinical topics, we have a track for that. We also have a track for our business owners, which is unique. We will be hosting a CEO panel, hearing from our manufacturer leads on those hot topics that are pressing, and what’s coming. We have brought back pre-convention workshops, which are always a favorite. We have the beautiful backdrop of Texas, of course, and if any folks are golfers, there are some lovely TPC courses right there.

Within the Expo, we, for the first time, are offering the skills labs and we’re going to have a free professional headshot station, but ultimately, this meeting is about connection. It’s being able to be back together. It’s learning from colleagues from across the United States, Canada, and beyond, and being able to take away tidbits and business advice from others who are dealing with a lot of the same challenges and identifying similar opportunities. We’d like to think of it as a big birthday party for the association, and that’s how the members see it. And it’s our 70th, so it’s a big event for us, and we’re going to really celebrate that milestone.

Sutherland: In addition to leading IHS, you are also the executive director of the National Board for Certification in Hearing Instrument Sciences. Tell me about the work that you are doing at the NBC-HIS.

Parady: Yes, thank you. NBC-HIS is the organization that oversees and offers the board certification credential (BC-HIS) for those engaged in dispensing hearing aids. Many consumers understand the value of working with a medical professional or a healthcare professional who is board-certified. And so, what we are focused on right now is making sure that hearing aid professionals understand that this is an accredited credential that is accessible to them, that it is valuable, and that it helps to distinguish them – especially as we have this direct-to-consumer and over-the-counter marketplace.  

This year we are working towards developing and releasing an updated study guide. We know a lot of professionals are hesitant about attempting to become board certified because they may not feel that they have all the information needed to study properly. So, we want to make sure that they understand what that path looks like and how to be successful, and we want to make sure that the customer experience for them is seamless so that when they maintain and recertify their board certification, that’s an easy transaction for them.

Sutherland: Do you have anything else you would like to share? 

Parady:  I would encourage anybody who is dispensing hearing aids to check out IHS if you’re not already a member and learn about what we are able to do for them and for their business. We value participation by any hearing healthcare professional and are really excited about what’s to come and are appreciative of our relationship with Hearing Review.

Citation for this article: Sutherland K. Interview: Alissa Parady, executive director, International Hearing Society. Hearing Review. 2022;29(8):30-31.