Former Senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole was introduced by AAA President Angela Loavenbruck.

Former Kansas Senator and political icon Bob Dole provided a humorous perspective on Washington politics and his life as a retired statesman. Throughout his service in Congress, which included the post of Senate Republican Majority Leader and 1996 presidential candidate, Dole has been known for his leadership and his penchant for addressing disability and veterans’ issues (he was seriously wounded during WWII). He was a champion for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and is currently chairman of the World War II Memorial Campaign which has raised $191 million to build a memorial in Washington. Additionally, he has written two books on political humor, Great Political Wit: Laughing (Almost) All the Way to the White House and Great Presidential Wit: I Wish I Was in the Book.

Dole regaled the audience with hilarious stories from US history found in his books, self-deprecating humor about his activities as a TV commercial spokesman for Pepsi and Viagra, the media circus that engulfed his former next-door neighbor, Monica Lewinski, as well as several personal, touching stories about his work in places like Bosnia and while representing constituents.

There was an audible gasp from the audience when he said that he owns a set of hearing aids, and they “look good in the case”—but he quickly explained that, due to war injuries, he lost the feeling in the ends of his fingers so he finds the devices difficult to use, plus he feels that his hearing hasn’t yet progressed to a problem level. Dole also noted that, with his wife, Elizabeth, and Hillary Clinton now in the Senate, he has joined President Clinton in the Senate Spouses Club. “I may run against Clinton for president of the club,” quipped Dole. “The polls aren’t in yet, but it looks good…”

AAA Rides the Winds of Change in San Antonio
The 15th Annual American Academy of Audiology (AAA) Convention and Exposition drew a reported 6,000 audiologists to the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio in April. This year’s convention theme was “Ridin’ the Winds of Change,” as the organization strives to move audiology toward more professional autonomy, legislative accomplishments, and the fulfillment of renewed academic, research, and ethical commitments.

 Some of the top educators, researchers, and personalities in the field of audiology were honored with Academy awards this year: (l to r) Jerry Northern was presented with the Career Award in Hearing; Brenda Ryals was presented with a Research Achievement Award; Mead Killion was presented with the Samuel F. Lybarger Award for Achievements in Industry; Rieko Darling was presented with the Clinical Educator Award; Harvey Dillon was presented with a Research Achievement Award; Janice Wolf Gasch was presented with the Humanitarian Award; and Fred Bess was presented with the Jerger Career Award for Research in Audiology.

The convention included a general assembly that updated members on AAA activities and starred former Senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole, included 26 feature sessions and nearly 100 instructional courses, and an exhibit hall with more than 190 hearing-related companies and organizations displaying their new products and services. This year, a special series of consumer workshops was also held to educate the general public on the topics of tinnitus, hearing aid technology, newborn hearing screening and other subjects.

At the AAA General Assembly, Academy President Angela Loavenbruck described her work with AAA since January 2002 as “the longest and shortest year of my life,” which included 18 gatherings of audiologists to discuss the issues of ethics, licensure, hearing-related legislation, and professional issues. She said that, in the last year, she has been witness to AAA moving into a new office—its fourth—due to the organization’s growth, planning related to the new Accreditation Committee on Audiological Education (ACAE), many legislative activities, and a new long-term strategic plan to address issues like autonomy for the profession and reimbursement for services.

On the legislative side, Loavenbruck said that the Academy is working with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS, formerly known as the Health Care Financing Administration or HCFA) for Medicare direct access, which would allow clients to visit audiologists without physician referrals. She has met with the American Academy of Otolaryngology (AAO) and assured that organization that “audiologists do not want to practice medicine and physicians would not want to practice audiology” or change the organizations’ current scope of practice.

The Academy has also been lobbying CMS to standardize its definitions of a “qualified audiologist” in the Medicaid program so that it would be consistent with the current Medicare law. The proposed regulation would define an audiologist by state licensure rather than by a private certification organization (ie, the CCC-A designation). The proposed rule recognizes that state licensure is the most widespread system for qualification of health care professionals and best serves the goal of consumer protection, according to Loavenbruck, and this regulation would expand the number of audiologists eligible to be reimbursed for services. “The new regulation would make it unnecessary for audiologists to hold anything but their license,” she said.

A renewed awareness of professional ethics has been one of the leading charges in Loavenbruck’s presidency, and four feature sessions were held on this topic, including “Ethical Practices Board Draft Conflict of Interest Guidelines” and “The Ethics of Audiologic Research & Collaboration with Industry.”

AAA President-elect Brad Stach says that his tenure, which begins in July, will focus on achieving professional autonomy and living up to the obligations that come with that goal, new educational models for audiology, ongoing legislation in Washington, and fostering more research in clinical environments. He says the recent merger of AAA and the AAA Foundation to form the Foundation for the Advancement of Audiology and Hearing Science (FAAHS) is designed to raise money to further advance educational and research funding opportunities.

Stach also explained the restructuring of the AAA Government Relations Committee, and says that the issues of audiology are now becoming better known to members of Congress. In particular, he says that a blueprint is being developed to address the complex questions surrounding reimbursement, the need for promoting state licensure and definition of professional scope of practice, professional autonomy issues, and an audiology educational model that “we won’t have to wait 20 years for.”

The Academy now has 8,000 members, says AAA Executive Director Laura Flemming Doyle. Among several new offerings that the Academy provides are a credit card, telephone calling card, new features to the organization’s Web site, and an online version of the Journal of the American Academy of Audiology (JAAA). Additionally, Doyle says AAA is working with other organizations on a bill before Congress that would allow groups to purchase health care benefits over state lines, and the Academy is also developing “virtual seminars” so that members can participate in instruction on topics like pediatric audiology, practice management, amplification, and professional issues without leaving their practices.

Awards and Honors
A distinguished group of audiologists received recognition from the Academy at this year’s awards ceremony. Jerry Northern, PhD, was presented with the Career Award in Hearing for his 40 years of educational, research, and professional contributions to the field. Northern has given more than 1000 lectures and workshops in 30 different countries, and has authored 14 books, 36 book chapters, 84 articles and monographs, and has served as editor of Seminars in Hearing and is currently the editor of Audiology Today. He worked as director of audiology services and professor of otolaryngology at the University of Colorado for 26 years, and is currently vice-president of professional services for HearUSA.

The Jerger Career Award for Research in Audiology was presented to Fred Bess, PhD, a founder and past-president of AAA. Bess has an admirable list of research achievements that include 26 research funding grants for awards totalling over $1.5 million and over $5 million of national training grants and extramural support. He has presented 266 papers to professional societies and has authored 19 books and monographs, 135 refereed research publications, and was co-editor with Gerald Studebaker of the Vanderbilt Report.

The Samuel F. Lybarger Award for Achievements in Industry was presented to Mead Killion, PhD, founder and president of Etymotic Research. Killion is often described as a modern-day Renaissance man who is accomplished in orchestral music (he plays viola and piano), mathematics, engineering, physiology, and audiology. He has invented or helped develop many innovations related to amplification, including the K-AMP, CORFIG curves, the use of horn tubing and Class D amplifiers, and more recently, the FIG6 fitting method and the Link-It array microphone. He holds 38 US patents, 2 foreign patents, and has authored 60 books, 15 book chapters, and 60 papers.

Brenda Ryals, PhD, and Harvey Dillon, PhD, were presented with Research Achievement Awards. Ryals, a professor at James Madison University, has been involved in research on hair cell regeneration that has led to new ways of thinking about the inner ear. Dillon, the research director of the National Acoustics Laboratory (NAL) in Australia, along with the late Denis Byrne and colleagues, developed the NAL gain rules (eg, NAL-NL1) and the Client Oriented Scale of Improvement (COSI) for fitting verification.

Receiving the AAA Clinical Educator Award was Reiko Darling, PhD, of the Aural Rehabilitation and Diagnostic Clinics at Western Washington University. The AAA Humanitarian Award was presented to Janis Wolfe Grasch, MS, of Tucson who has been providing hearing aids and audiological services to people in Nogales, Mexico, since 1977.

Back to SLC in 2004
During the General Assembly, Gail Whitelaw offered a preview of the AAA 16th Annual Convention which will return to Salt Lake City (site of the 1996 AAA convention) on March 31-April 2, 2004.