The 2018 mid-term elections left a reshaped Congress, with nearly 100 new representatives and senators coming to Washington, DC. This much turnover has led to great opportunities for the Academy’s government relations department to build relationships with new members of Congress, many of whom have not held elected office before. The new class is the most diverse and the most educated in congressional history. The mid-term elections also left a split body in charge, with Republicans maintaining their Senate majority while the Democrats captured the House of Representatives for the first time since losing the body in the 2010 elections. 

The Academy immediately sought out new members of Congress to educate them on the importance of audiologists and hearing health care, while striving to connect members of Congress to working audiologists in their districts. This builds on successful grassroots advocacy efforts in the 115th Congress when audiologists were able to attend events in DC and in congressional representatives’ home districts to better connect the issues that are discussed on Capitol Hill with the working experience of the Academy’s members and your patients. 

Multiple student groups and the Academy’s Executive Committee have done Hill visits early on to show Congress that audiologists are engaged politically and that hearing health care should be a priority for their members. In early March, Academy President Lisa Christensen, AuD, President-Elect Catherine Palmer, PhD, and Past President Jackie Clark, PhD, were in Washington, DC, for the Hearing Industries Association’s (HIA) annual meeting. Hill meetings were scheduled with legislators and congressional staff to emphasize the role of the audiologist in the hearing health-care team and to begin discussing how congressional policy could be shaped to benefit the millions of Americans with hearing loss. The group was able to have a sit-down meeting with Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA) to discuss issues related to Medicare while educating him on the vast scope of practice that audiologists have. 

In late February, a group of 16 students from the Northeast Ohio AuD Coalition (NOAC) came to DC to meet with their legislators. Over the course of one day, NOAC’s students had meetings with 16 different congressional offices and they were able to educate congressional staffers on the importance of hearing health care and the role of the audiologist within the health-care system. The group also worked on issues related to student loan forgiveness and telehealth, discussing the Medicare Telehealth Parity Act (MTPA) and the Access to Frontline Health Care Act. This was the third consecutive year that NOAC has come to DC to lobby for the profession of audiology. 

In early March, we were lucky to be joined by five students from the Student Academy of Audiology chapter at Auburn University for Capitol Hill visits. They came on the heels of World Hearing Day and were able to educate their members of Congress on the importance of identifying and treating hearing loss early. They discussed the congressional resolution related to World Hearing Day that was introduced by hearing health-care champions Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and David McKinley (R-WV). The Auburn SAA students also discussed other issues related to audiology like the MTPA and the Access to Frontline Health Care Act over the course of seven meetings at congressional offices. This was the Auburn SAA’s first trip to DC and the Academy’s is hopeful that this will continue into the future. 

Later in the spring, we are expecting groups of students to come to DC from Ohio State University and Nova Southeastern University. The SAA board also is expected to make Capitol Hill visits as part of their in-person meeting at Academy headquarters. These meetings are crucial to connect the work that the Academy’s government relations team discusses with legislators and their staffs to the day-to-day experiences of audiologists everywhere. Issues such as patients having access to audiologists, greater coverage of services, telehealth expansion, student loan forgiveness, a strong audiology program at the VA, and NIH funding are absolutely critical to the future of audiology. When Academy members visit DC, they help advance these issues and remind legislators about the importance of hearing health care. 

Academy staff are here to help our working and student audiologists when they come to Washington, DC. Academy staff will provide briefing materials and set up meetings with legislators and their staffs as well as help usher folks throughout the Capitol complex to get to meetings as necessary. As the Academy looks to build on its robust advocacy profile in the 116th Congress, having audiologists share their individual stories is so critical to seeing Congress recognize the importance of hearing health care and address the issues that will impact audiology for years to come. 

For questions regarding the Academy's government relations, call 703-226-1060 or send an email to afinkel@audiology.org