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President-Elect Wants to Hear from Members: Interview with Kris English, PhD

President-Elect Wants to Hear from Members: Interview with Kris English, PhD

May 12, 2009 Interviews

Douglas L. Beck, AuD, speaks with Kris English, PhD, about her initiatives as the Academy’s new president starting July 1. Dr. English hopes to hear from you—the Academy’s members.

Academy: Hi, Kris. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with me, and congratulations… as of July 1, 2009, you’ll be the president of the American Academy of Audiology.

English: Thanks, Doug. It really is an honor and I am very much looking forward to my term as president.

Academy: Kris, you’ve been president-elect now for almost a year, and it’s been a difficult year nationally on many fronts. I wonder, as you get closer to the presidency, have these events affected the way you’ve been thinking about short- and long-term goals for the Academy?

English: Yes. The economy has changed dramatically in the last 12 months and it has affected the Academy just as it has each of its members. The board and staff are working with hard financial realities and we’re in a much-disciplined mindset. As with our members, this will be a year of “holding down the fort” rather than expansion.

Academy: I can understand that entirely. In fact, I think in the last 12 months or so the Academy has introduced more new programs than it has ever done previously in the same time. For example, the Academy Research Conference (ARC) just before AudiologyNOW!®, the Future Leaders of Audiology Conference (FLAC), the introduction of the Student Academy of Audiology (SAA), the Gold Standard Summit and more.

English: Right. The Academy has been very busy developing new projects and programs, each of them necessary and important. However, for the duration, it seems a good time to take a different tack: “go deep” into member issues rather than “go broad” with growth, as it were.

Academy: And so how do you go about doing that?

English: The most important way to “go deep” is to communicate with members in as many ways as possible. As always, the board needs to know what members want from the Academy. Of course, we’ve used an annual survey in years past to collect input, but the response rate tells us we are not hearing from everyone. Members might prefer other ways to “weigh in,” for example, via an interactive member-centered blog.

Academy: How would that be different from the Academy’s current Web-based SoundOff, which is available through www.audiology.org?

English: Well, that’s a great question. Threads on our listserv tend to address vital pragmatic questions, such as coding and reimbursement, technology challenges, student supervision, and so on. The threads run their course and although archived, it’s hard to search out discussions later. In addition, they land in our inbox, and on busy days, many subscribers just delete the postings.

However, a blog format can give members another way to share concerns on a less pragmatic and more philosophical level. For instance, I’d be very interested to hear from members about the values we stand for. Do we value social responsibility? Patient autonomy? Lifelong education? I tell my students that we do, but we don’t have anything in writing (yet). What about the complexities of obtaining a seat at CMS, or the promotion of practice ownership, or our vision for audiology in the next decade? Member input would be archived and organized by topic–a great opportunity for thoughtful reflection on sophisticated topics. In addition, what a great way to guide the board in future planning—because eventually the economy will recover and we will want to be ready for member needs.

Academy: That’s very interesting, Kris. It certainly makes sense to re-evaluate, and of course, it will appear to have made even more sense if the membership does become very active in their responses to confirm or alter the short and long-term strategic plan. What other plans do you have for your term as president?

English: Doug, as you know, I’ve proposed the “Hear to Read” program. This program will help audiologists communicate convincingly with families about the connection between consistent hearing and reading readiness. The link is straightforward—when children listen to speech sounds all day, every day for five or six years—then they are ready in first grade to learn how to associate those sounds to letters—that is, learn to read. That constant onslaught of speech sounds is essential; without it, reading will be delayed. Audiologists may not see themselves as part of the “literacy team,” but who better than audiologists to help parents understand that reading success depends on “relentless listening”? Who better than audiologists to promote “first-grade reading readiness” with consistent hearing via consistent amplification? And, who better than the Academy to support audiologists as they grow into “literacy team members”?

Academy: That reminds me of some of the work from my mentor, Dr. Jack Katz. Dr Katz often noted that children with auditory processing problems frequently have difficulty with reading and spelling, and vice versa, and of course, many of these same children have had extensive periods of hearing loss via otitis media and the conductive loss that results from having fluid in the ear.

English: Exactly. Carol Flexer has reminded us for years that although sound enters the ear, “we hear with the brain.” According to a recent survey, audiologists do not necessarily see themselves as part of the “literacy team,” even though hearing has this direct connection to reading. In the next year, members can expect a “toolbox” of resources for audiologists, including workshops, parent brochures, handouts, and—down the road, chapters in pediatric audiology textbooks about our role in reading development.

Academy: Very interesting. I think this initiative makes a lot of sense and is rather intuitive for audiologists. It wouldn’t take much for us to incorporate the necessity of ongoing and active listening into our core approach to hearing and hearing loss. In addition, it’s very timely in respect to the 2008 Seminars in Hearing edition, which revealed the quantities of children with hearing loss are far greater than we usually suspect. In fact, they reported that of every 1,000 children in the United States, there are some 10 to 15 children with a mild, bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, and that if we add in the children with unilateral hearing loss, that’s another 30 to 56 per 1,000. So that brings the numbers of children with hearing loss to an upper end of 70 children per 1,000 with hearing loss, plus the 1 or 2 per 1,000 that are identified as severe-to-profoundly hearing impaired at their newborn screenings. Therefore, the bottom line is some 7 percent of the children in school have hearing loss, and these children are likely at risk for reading and spelling failures, as well as language and auditory processing difficulty. I recall the number quoted in Seminars was that there are 25 times as many children in school with hearing loss, as there are at birth. Quite an impressive number!

English: Yes, I recall that issue, too. Literacy and pre-literacy are natural areas for audiologists to be more involved in and I’ll do my best to tie some of these things directly into audiology and see if we can help more children through our intervention and aural rehabilitative efforts.

Academy: Excellent. Thanks so much, Kris.

English: My pleasure, Doug. Thanks very much for your interest in this, and thanks for your time, too!

Kris English, PhD, is currently the president-elect of the American Academy of Audiology. Dr English is an associate professor at the University of Akron/NOAC (Northeastern Ohio AuD Consortium). She hopes to hear from members! Please e-mail her.

Douglas L. Beck, AuD, Board Certified in Audiology, is the Web content editor for the American Academy of Audiology.

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