As members of the Student Academy of Audiology (SAA) Board, we often hear that one of the greatest challenges local SAA chapters and our student members face is incorporating advocacy into their daily and chapter activities. When students think about advocacy, it tends to be on a large scale. We envision pictures of students standing in front of the Capitol in Washington, DC. with their folders, clipboards, and leave-behinds. We think about our classmates and friends who participated in National Day at Your State Capital Day (NDAYSCD) and traveled to the state capital to speak to representatives. Yes, this is the epitome of the advocacy dream; however, advocacy occurs on many different levels and in a variety of capacities.

Macroadvocacy works to understand issues and develop solutions that persist in larger networks within the state or across the nation. Professional organizations advocate on behalf of audiologists; however, that is not where macroadvocacy stops. SAA chapters initiate advocacy for legislative efforts at the state (such as NDAYSCD) and national levels.

Mesoadvocacy focuses on local communities, schools, and organizations through education and public awareness. From a student perspective, this level of advocacy is extremely accessible. Local SAA chapters can organize initiatives, such as school-based educational campaigns, or participate in national initiatives, for example the “Ask Me About Audiology” campaign. Mesoadvocacy allows for an individual or group to make a large difference without the pressure of large-scale advocacy.

Microadvocacy impacts individual change, working with patients and families to support them through their hearing loss journey. This is as simple as encouraging and equipping patients to advocate on behalf of their hearing loss in a setting like a restaurant or movie theater, or in a personal conversation. Being a microadvocate may also include someone seeing you wear earplugs at a concert or sharing a cool ear fact at the family dinner table. Microadvocacy happens every day, and it only takes one person—you! How are you contributing to microadvocacy efforts in your daily environment?

DiagramDon’t Wait for Advocacy to Come to You, Get On a Level!

As you can see, advocacy is much more accessible than originally thought! With planning, resources and confidence, you can advocate on a daily basis. The SAA Public Outreach Committee has gathered resources to make advocacy easily attainable to students. Following are steps to plan your advocacy effort. Also, for more information, visit the SAA website, saa.audiology.org.

  1. Define your target audience. Will it be a friend, a local school, or your senator?
  2. Plan your message. What is the most appropriate and relevant message for the target audience? A pressing bill in the state may define your target topic. If you are presenting to a group of elementary students, promoting good auditory health habits may be appropriate. 
  3. Consider your delivery. What makes the most sense for your target audience? Can you plan a face-to-face visit? Is a phone call or e-mail more realistic? Is a Facebook post the most effective way? Whatever makes sense and makes you feel comfortable, do it!
  4. Execute with confidence! You are the expert in audiology here. Don’t be afraid to share your knowledge with your target audience.
  5. Provide additional information. Bring a leave-behind handout about audiologists, follow up with an e-mail full of additional websites/links or hand out ear coloring sheets. Pro tip: Check the advocacy pages on the SAA or Academy website for printable resources and leave-behinds.
  6. Follow up! Unfortunately, contacting someone one time doesn’t tend to ignite much change. Be sure to contact whomever you talked with and ask if he or she has questions or needs more information. This can happen a day, week, or month after your initial contact. It can happen every week! Consistency and perseverance pay off in the work of advocacy.
  7. Share what you’ve done! Students get empowered and inspired when they see their cohort and fellow classmates doing advocacy work. Share your efforts with the national SAA or post on social media.
  8. Plan another advocacy effort. Now that your foot is in the advocacy door, grab the handle and open it up! Try another target audience, involve your classmates, and challenge yourself. Don’t stop advocating! 

Student Voices Matter!

Wherever you are in your academic career, advocacy can be incorporated into any level of your life. Are you an undergraduate preparing to leave for graduate school? Be a microadvocate and engage your friends and family in conversations about what you plan to study and why it’s so important. Are you a new officer on your SAA Board? Take your advocacy efforts to the mesolevel by organizing an outreach event on campus or in your local community. Eager to change the system but not sure how to get started? Join us by applying to volunteer with national SAA or check the resources on our website, saa.audiology.org. Get on the macrolevel by collaborating with students across the country to improve audiology.

As a student, you are in a unique role in the advocacy world. The efforts achieved now will impact YOU as a professional. Don’t wait for advocacy to come to you. This is your profession. Own it and get involved. Start on the microlevel and advance to a macroactivity, or live in one level for your entire career. Whatever you do, engage your community, empower your patients and fellow students, and lead your profession!

Engage your communities. Empower your patients. Lead your profession.