Twenty years after James Jerger, PhD, invited 30 audiologists to Houston to join him in forming an organization “of, by, and for audiologists,” their creation, the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), celebrated its 20th anniversary at its 20th annual convention, AudiologyNOW! 2008, held April 2–5 in Charlotte, NC.
To the near-record 7000 or so in attendance, it was clear that “hear to stay,” the official theme of the gathering, seriously understated what the academy has achieved since 1988. Not only has it lasted, but it has grown to nearly 11,000 members, it holds the world's most important audiology meeting and industry trade show each year, and it is established as the dominant organization in its profession. Visionary as they were, it's unlikely that the founders, most of whom were at AudiologyNOW! 2008, realized two decades ago what they had begun.
The opening morning's General Assembly in the main ballroom of the Charlotte Convention Center paid tribute to AAA's history, but also looked to its future. The event started on a high note, as a chorus of 26 audiologists from around the country delivered a stirring and flawless rendition of the National Anthem, despite having never rehearsed together before that morning. In another new twist, the stage was designed to look like a talk show set complete with couches, where academy leaders sat and chatted with Mike Collins, a popular Charlotte radio host. In this way, interviewees reached members more casually than with the usual format of a succession of speakers taking their turn at the podium.
Celebrating 20 years
Therese Walden, AuD, program chair for AudiologyNOW 2008, led off the program by telling Collins about the highlights of the meeting. She was followed by Helena Solodar, AuD, chair of the 20th Anniversary Task Force, who showed an entertaining video filled with memorable moments from AAA's first 20 years. Among those interviewed for the video was Fred Bess, PhD, who recalled the excitement that the founders felt in 1989 at the academy's first convention on Kiawah Island, SC. Bess, who was the second president after Jerger, said, “For the first time we had the opportunity to control our own destiny.”
The video was one of several anniversary observances during the session. When Alison Grimes, AuD, the AAA president, came on stage, she and Solodar removed the cover from a three-dimensional artwork made up of photos, documents, and other memorabilia of the academy's history. Commissioned and donated by Widex, the piece will be on exhibit at AAA headquarters in Reston, VA.
That's also where the 20th anniversary time capsule will be displayed until it is opened in 2028. The capsule, which is filled with artifacts from the academy's history, was sealed during the General Assembly.
Looking to the future
Grimes and Patrick Feeney, PhD, who will succeed her as president on July 1, made it clear in their interviews with Collins that AAA does not plan to rest on its laurels.
Mindful of the importance of recruiting a new generation of leaders in audiology, Grimes announced that 15 outstanding practitioners would be invited to a Young Leadership Conference. She also reported that the academy is creating a separate organization for students. She also urged everyone in attendance to volunteer for AAA. “We need your energy to help our committees and task forces,” she said.
Since nothing is more crucial to the continuing success of audiology and the academy than education, Grimes emphasized the work of the Accreditation Commission on Audiology Education (ACAE), an independent organization that seeks to become the primary accreditor of AuD programs. “ACAE is alive and well,” she said, noting that it recently accredited the program at Washington University in St. Louis and, as a result, is now eligible for federal recognition. She asked members to sign a petition calling on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to recognize ACAE as audiology's representative rather than the accrediting body associated with the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
Another future-oriented initiative, said Grimes, will be an academy summit conference, “Gold Standards in Audiology Education,” scheduled for January 12–14 in Orlando. The goal is to make sure that AuD and PhD programs are providing their graduates with “gold standard” outcomes.
She also touched on the work of the American Academy of Audiology Foundation, which is making accreditation a top priority. Another foundation initiative is raising funds to enable the American Board of Audiology to develop a specialty certification program in pediatrics. The president reported that Starkey Laboratories has made a $75,000 donation to the foundation, the largest it has ever received, to support that effort.
President-elect Feeney discussed the goals for his year as president. He will work for passage of federal legislation giving Medicare beneficiaries direct access to audiologists (rather than needing a physician's referral), and he urged audiologists to ask their congressional representatives to sponsor the measure.
Feeney also promised to emphasize research during his term, and he announced the establishment of the annual Academy Research Conference. The first conference, “Otoacoustic Emissions: Improving Practice Through Science,” will be held April 1 in Dallas, the day before AudiologyNOW! 2009 officially begins there.
Feeney, chief of audiology at the University of Washington, said that he would also continue the academy's focus on ethics.
Cheryl Kreider Carey, who was appointed executive director of the academy last fall after several years as deputy director, told Collins that she now has “11,000 bosses,” referring to the members. But, she hastened to add that she liked her work because “I enjoy building a team.”
Exercising a traditional prerogative of her position, Grimes presented six presidential awards, including one to Margo Skinner, PhD, a distinguished clinician and researcher who died in January. The president cited Carmen Brewer, PhD, for her outstanding record of voluntarism and honored Helena Solodar for leading the 20th Anniversary Task Force.
Two academy editors were honored together: James Jerger, who has been editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Academy of Audiology since its founding in 1989, and Jerry Northern, PhD, who held the same distinction at Audiology Today. However, Grimes said, Northern will be leaving that post shortly, and David Fabry, PhD, will take over as content editor. Christine Yoshinaga-Itano, PhD, a renowned pediatric audiologist who played a major role in establishing universal newborn hearing screening, also received a presidential award.
The academy and the AAA Foundation jointly sponsored the first Academy Awards Banquet. Seven men and women received AAA's top honors and also talked about their work.
The James Jerger Career Award for Research in Audiology went to Larry Humes, PhD, a long-time faculty member at Indiana University. His wide-ranging research has delved into topics including susceptibility to noise-induced hearing loss, innovations in hearing aid fittings, and the psychoacoustic abilities of hearing-impaired listeners. Humes, a prolific writer, has received more than 24 research grants and been given awards by the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Aging.
Five of the honorees received Distinguished Achievement Awards. Kris English, PhD, who will become AAA president-elect later this year, is credited with helping shift clinicians' focus from the audiogram to the patient and focusing on the need to counsel persons with hearing loss and the parents of hearing-impaired children. English, a faculty member at the University of Akron, has written extensively on counseling and is a strong advocate for improving the quality of teaching in audiology. She organized the first Audiology Teaching Conference.
Judy Gravel, PhD, one of the world's pre-eminent pediatric audiologists, was honored for making valuable contributions in the areas of research, education, and hearing healthcare policy that have affected the lives of children with hearing loss and their families. Now director of the Center for Childhood Communication at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Gravel is a leading authority on newborn hearing screening and early intervention and has helped many states and countries to start such programs.
Roger Ruth, PhD, an AAA founder, was cited for contributions as a teacher, clinician, and researcher. Ruth, the director of the Division of Communication and Balance at the University of Virginia and a professor at James Madison University, has written and done influential research for 30 years in the areas of stapedial reflex dynamics, auditory brainstem response, electrocochleography, intraoperative neurophysiology, cochlear implants, and tinnitus.
Also presented with a Distinguished Achievement Award was Jon Shallop, PhD, a professor of otolaryngology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Shallop, whose doctorate is in hearing sciences and experimental psychology, has done research on cochlear implantation, neural response telemetry, averaged electrical stapedius reflex, and bimodal speech processing in hearing aids and cochlear implants. He is known also as an outstanding teacher and clinician and is a prolific author on a wide range of subjects.
Robert Sweetow, PhD, the director of audiology at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, is known as a caring and innovative clinician and teacher who has made contributions in aural rehabilitation, hearing aids, tinnitus, counseling, and forensic audiology. In his passion to provide the best possible care to patients with hearing loss, he developed LACE (Listening and Communication Enhancement), which has quickly established itself as a valuable tool for helping patients gain greater benefit from amplification.
The academy presented its Humanitarian Award to Howard Weinstein, MBA, who, as a social entrepreneur rather than an audiologist, has devoted many years to serving hearing-impaired people in developing countries. After selling two successful plumbing distributorships based in Canada, Weinstein moved to Botswana where he worked for an NGO. In that capacity he made affordable solar-powered hearing aids available to thousands of people in Africa. Later he launched a similar project in Brazil. His work has served as a model for others seeking to bring hearing help to impoverished populations.
The banquet also recognized numerous young audiologists and audiology students who received honors from the AAA Foundation. They included Julie Honaker, PhD, of the Mayo Clinic, and Patti Johnstone, PhD, of the University of Tennessee, both New Investigator Research Award winners, and Angela Yarnell Bonino, MS, of the University of North Carolina; Kristal Mills, BS, of East Carolina University; and Erica Williams, MD, of Arizona State University, who received Student Investigator Research Awards. PhD candidates Kathleen Mettel of the University of Illinois, and Christopher Spankovich, AuD, of Vanderbilt, were recognized as Summer Research Fellowship awardees.
As always, AudiologyNOW! 2008 offered attendees many hundreds of educational presentations, a sampling of which are reported on in an article starting on page 38.
On the recreational side, about 1000 hardy souls braved rain and temperatures in the low 40s to take part in Celebrate Audiology, an unprecedented outdoor party held at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Fortified by a good band, food and beverages, and wet suits, participants reported having a good time despite the elements.
The 20th convention closed, as always, with one of AAA's most hallowed—or at least oldest—traditions, the Audiology Trivia Bowl. As they have annually since 1990 in New Orleans, emcee Jerry Northern posed 25 arcane questions and possible answers (including lots of witty foils) and Gus Mueller, who writes them all, revealed the correct answers.
This year, in observance of the 20th anniversary, Mueller repeated five questions from past Trivia Bowls. However, that seemed to be of little help to competing teams, possibly because the contestants were either too young to have heard them the first time or too old to remember them.
The winning student team came from A.T. Still University, home of the Arizona School of Health Sciences. The grand winners were a team of (mostly) veteran audiology all-stars who choose a new name each year. This year they were The Charlottans and Charlottears.
MORE SOLUTIONS IN MORE COLORS
Audiology Solutions, the annual exposition at AudiologyNOW! 2008, featured more exhibitors and larger and more elaborate displays than ever before.
On the hearing aid side, trends begun in previous years accelerated. Exhibitors emphasized ever tinier BTEs, open-canal fits, improved connectivity with other devices, and, perhaps most striking, stylish models offering a rainbow of color choices and flamboyant patterns that made it clear that the young at heart need not settle for their parents' hearing aids.
Another conspicuous development was manufacturers' penchant for short, catchy names for their new models. They included Be, Ion, Move, Next, Passion, Vibe, Vigo, and Zon. Beyond hearing aids, a number of new companies promoted non-traditional approaches to tinnitus and more advanced communication devices for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
For much more on Audiology Solutions, turn to Manufacturers News on page 55.