President's Message: Thinking Outside of the Shell?

Author: Rita Chaiken, Au.D.

During a vacation trip to Maine last summer, I learned more about lobsters and lobster fishing than I could have imagined. Just recently, I was reminded of my summer education when I listened to a video on Facebook describing how lobsters grow. The soft, flexible lobster lives inside a rigid shell that does not expand as the lobster takes form and grows. The shell then becomes confining and keeps the lobster from developing. The lobster, feeling the pressure of this limitation, sheds the shell and grows another one, which then houses the lobster as it continues to expand until it, too, needs to be shed.

The example of the lobster made me think of ADA and how we have grown and expanded out of our “shell” and continuously re-invented our professional organization. Each time we felt pressure, we rose to the challenge of change; of shedding the old, confining shell, and developing a new one. Not always taking the popular direction amongst the wider community of audiologists, we pushed forward and grew. ADA has always prided itself on “thinking out of the box,” or if you will forgive me, “out of the shell.”

The constraints audiologists who dispensed hearing devices had by virtue of not having a place to professionally call home, inspired us to shed a barrier and, in 1977, led to the formation of our organization. The need to be credentialed to the full scope of the practice of audiology, led us to shed the master’s degree barrier and lead the charge for the Au.D. The desire to better portray the membership and goals of our organization, caused us to shed the barrier of our original name to become the Academy of Doctors of Audiology.

Now, we once again are shedding the barrier of our early opinions on the use of PSAPS and OTC hearing devices. We do this because, like the growing lobster, we are feeling the pressure of being confined to the traditional models of service and device delivery. We do this because, like it or not, the worlds of communication and electronics are changing, and, in order to survive and thrive, we have to allow ourselves to grow, expand and change.

It’s easy to fear change. It’s scary to embrace it. Nonetheless, change is all around us, and adapting to it is exciting and invigorating.

In the spirit of breaking down the confines that now prevent audiology from truly becoming a full doctoring profession, it was ADA, and its members, who advocated to get HR 2519, the Audiology Patient Choice Act, introduced in Congress. ADA members, it is us and our audiology peers who each need to become actively involved and support this crucial legislation. We can break the constraints confronting us so that we can grow into the larger shell, enabling our patients to have Medicare direct access, and allowing us to be recognized and reimbursed for all the treatment services we provide, and, finally, to achieve Limited License Physician status under Medicare.

Like the lobster, ADA requires sustenance to support its growth and to ensure that important legislative endeavors have the energy and life to evolve. Know that any gift of money or time toward our goal of independence truly matters. One person’s contribution is not compared to another’s. There are those who may be able to give a large donation while others may sacrifice greatly to even make a small contribution.

We recognize that every individual has his/her own special gifts to contribute – and it’s up to each of us to decide how we will make our mark. Whatever you can do to contribute to ADA generally or to 18x18, specifically, is significant and will impact the audiology profession in the future.

ADA has burst from its shells multiple times. What has remained is our commitment to evidence-based practices within the business of audiology and ensuring that our patients are our primary concern.

Lobster season is upon us again and time to expand into a new shell!

Enjoy the summer.