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Let Me Hear From You: Audiology and Myth Busting 

 

Maybe you’ve seen it.

“Myth Busters” is a TV show that tests urban myths, movie myths, and popular beliefs. Here are some examples: A penny dropped from the Empire State Building can kill someone on the sidewalk below. If you jump right before impact in a free-falling elevator, you will stay alive. You can build a bridge out of duct tape. The myths are carefully tested and then a verdict is rendered: confirmed, plausible, or “busted.” (The rulings for these particular myths respectively: busted, busted, confirmed.)

Recently, subscribers to our listserv SoundOff engaged in a lively discussion about the education of future audiologists. Many issues were raised, most of them being tackled by the Gold Standards Summit Task Force. One topic that never fails to stimulate conversation, and could be based on a myth, is the number of AuD programs.

The prevailing opinion is we have too many programs (N = 73). Over the years, it’s been pointed out that medicine, optometry, and physical therapy have far fewer programs, and that we should follow that model. But apart from emulating other professions, what other reasons lead us to this conclusion? Is “needing far fewer programs” a myth that we haven’t actually confirmed?

There is no doubt that the current small numbers of students graduating from those 73 programs will only partially fill the void when boomers start to retire, and those numbers are not going to meet the needs of the growing aging population. Audiology continues to use old-school teaching models, relying on the variances of a local population base to train students rather than developing technologies to teach skills faster and with actual (imagine it!) standardization. In this regard, data makes the case—these two situations, (1) small classes/inefficient teaching methods and (2) a growing need for more audiologists, describe clear-cut problems that need solutions.

But the number of programs—is this really a problem? If it is, why are even more programs being considered? Several states are experiencing or anticipating dire shortages, and are not drawing in audiologists from other states to fill positions or start practices. They see the need to train and retain their own residents to meet the needs of their population. If/when they add another AuD program to the list, will our profession give them grief or support?

Let’s move the concern of “too many programs” from myth status to something we really understand. Surely we can develop an algorithm based on demographics, projected needs, and sound rationales. Or we could let the market decide. Regardless, we need our own reasons, not “must copy med schools” reasons.

This is my final president’s message but I’d still like to hear from you! Please click here for a two-question survey to give your input on the “number of programs” issue. Your suggestions on how to confirm or bust this myth would be appreciated.

And speaking of appreciation, thank you, everyone! It’s been a once-in-a-lifetime honor to serve as president of this Academy, and I have valued everyone’s support. Thanks especially to the Board of Directors, whose unwavering dedication and hard work helped the Academy move forward in vital and substantial ways. Incoming President Pat Kricos will be stepping up on July 1; I know you will help her just as you helped me!

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