By Sarah Sydlowski

This article is a part of the January/February 2022, Volume 34, Number 1, Audiology Today issue

There is a modern-day parable that I’ve seen in multiple online forums. The basic components of the story are as follows: A young man is gifted an old, heirloom pocket watch by his father, who instructs him to take it to a pawn shop and ask what they would pay for it. They offer only a few dollars, citing its scratched face. The father then instructs his son to take it to a watch shop, where he is offered several hundred dollars, due to its high-quality brand but need for repair. 

Sarah Sydlowski, AuD, PhD, MBA
Sarah Sydlowski, AuD, PhD, MBA, CISC, ABA Certified
President | American Academy of Audiology

Finally, the father tells his son to take the pocket watch to a museum, where he is offered several hundred thousand dollars for the watch to be included in their fine antique collection. 

The moral of the story is that you must know your own value and never settle for less than you are worth; the right place will value you in the right way. This is an important lesson on its own, but I see a second moral for us as audiologists when thinking about our Academy and the value it delivers for us as professionals. 

Some of us view membership like the pawn shop owners viewed the pocket watch. We focus so intently on the shortcomings and imperfections of our organizations that we overlook the lasting value the organizations bring to us if we invest in them. 

Sometimes, we act like the watch shop owner. We may recognize there is some inherent value in our time-tested organizations, but we may not believe investing in them is worth our money or our time. We imagine someone else will ensure the valuable history is not lost and the investment is made to keep everything in working order. 

At our best, we’re like the museum curator, realizing that the value our organizations deliver consists of more than we can see on the surface. They are worth substantial investment because they have real and lasting impact that should not be overlooked or unappreciated. They have value beyond measure but, without ongoing investment, they could easily be lost.

The American Academy of Audiology represents all audiologists. Whether each individual audiologist pays membership dues or not, the work of Academy staff and volunteers benefits the profession as a whole. 

The Academy ensures we have the codes we need to bill and be reimbursed for our services. Because of the Academy, we have standards and guidelines and an ethical framework to follow. The Academy enables us to have a seat at the legislative table, guaranteeing that the best interests of audiologists are represented when decisions that could change our professional lives are being made. 

Most recently, these decisions have included fundamental changes to our delivery model, including development of over-the-counter regulations and Medicare coverage of hearing aids and hearing services. Imagine a scenario without our Academy advocating on our behalf…that would be a situation I hope we never encounter. 

The Academy guarantees our profession can accomplish more than any of us could as individuals, from creating partnerships with other organizations, to influencing licensing boards, to forecasting the challenges that will impact our practices. 

It is our responsibility as members of this profession to contribute to the work of our professional organization, as members, as donors to the Foundation, as volunteers, and as advocates. The value that the Academy delivers for all audiologists makes it well worth the investment. 

The American Academy of Audiology Board of Directors is committed to making sure that the value the organization delivers is readily apparent and indisputable. We aim to transparently communicate the value we deliver our profession: 

The key strategic priorities of the 2021–2022 Academy Board are ensuring audiologists’ ability to practice, ensuring the future of our profession, and ensuring the future of our Academy.

We identified seven key objectives that describe what matters most right now to effectively achieve our strategic priorities.

We developed a new value proposition statement that describes the importance and usefulness of membership. 

Learn more and review the full documents here.

After a difficult two years living in a pandemic, facing ongoing changes to our practice-delivery models, and feeling pressure to demonstrate our value to the health-care system, it’s easy to say that membership is not something affordable right now. But, considering the rapidly changing legislative and regulatory environment and the associated repercussions for all audiology practices, the real question is: How can you afford not to see the value of investing in your profession?

As always, let me know what you think by e-mailing me at

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