A reported 575 hearing care professionals attended the 63rd annual International Hearing Society (IHS) Meeting held Thursday to Saturday, September 18-20, in 100°F-plus Palm Springs, Calif. The convention offered a look at the latest in products and services from more than 50 companies, nearly 20 seminars and educational sessions, and a preconvention workshop that included topics on ear impressions, tympanometry, and tinnitus therapy. The meeting also featured two keynote presentations on leadership and entrepreneurialism, as well as a special Industry Leadership Panel that provided perspectives from many of the largest hearing aid manufacturers and distributors both in the United States and abroad.
On Thursday night, the convention officially kicked off its full schedule of events with a dinner and opening keynote presentation from entrepreneur Daymond John of ABC’s reality show Shark Tank and founder of the FUBU clothing brand. Introduced by event sponsor Brandon Sawalich of Starkey Hearing Technologies, John’s provided an inspirational talk about business leadership, risk, and decision making.
At the annual Membership Meeting on Friday morning, IHS Executive Director Kathleen Menillo, MBA, and the IHS Board of Governors outlined their plans that centered on the themes of building membership, continuing education opportunities, legislative initiatives, and ongoing collaborations with allied hearing care organizations. According to the Board, IHS continues to grow rapidly. The Society reports unprecedented growth in 2013, adding 1513 new members, and the organization was composed of 4610 members by the beginning of this year. IHS also has members in 40 countries, and says these professionals are often drawn to the Society as a means of setting themselves apart from their competitors since all members agree to adhere to the International Code of Ethics promulgated by the Society. Similarly, the number of students enrolled in the IHS Distance Learning for Professionals in Hearing Health Sciences increased by 30%, and IHS is working on a complete update of its student workbook, textbook, and trainer manual, the latter of which will be mapped to these new educational materials and provide a formal opportunity for updating hearing instrument specialist trainers.
Fit to Serve, the Society’s initiative to give hearing instrument specialists a greater role in caring for veterans with hearing problems via the Department of Veterans Affairs, also remains a priority of the Society. Although the endeavor may face an uphill battle with opposition from within the VA and the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), the legislation (HR3508 and S2311) was introduced into Congress and gained a special House Subcommittee Hearing in March that, at the very least, introduced IHS and its issues to many important members of Congress.
IHS President Thomas Higgins, ACA, BC-HIS, whose term expires at the end of this year, passed the president’s gavel onto President-elect Scott Beall, AuD, ACA, BC-HIS. The newly installed president-elect is current Society Treasurer Richard Giles, ACA, BC-HIS. Todd Beyer, ACA, BC-HIS, was announced as the new treasurer, and Antonio (Tony) Calderon, MD, BC-HIS, was named the new secretary.
One of the highlights of the convention on Friday was a special Industry Leadership Panel and Luncheon sponsored by CareCredit that included many of the hearing industry’s top leaders and decision-makers. Moderated by Wisconsin-based practice owner Scott Lau, ACA, BC-HIS, questions were fielded from the audience and text messages that ranged from “What is your position on manufacturers owning retail dispensing outlets?” to “Would it make sense to lower prices to drive in new patients?” Stay tuned for a special report on this event in Hearing Review online news.
Saturday was a day devoted to concurrent seminars and the IHS Expo, as well as two special presentations. The first, sponsored by Phonak, featured USN Commander Kirk Lippold (Ret) who presented a riveting account of the Al Qaeda attack of the USS Cole. His speech, “Leadership and Accountability When It Matters,” tied together his perspectives on leadership, vision, commitment, and crisis management while recounting the harrowing events surrounding the attack on the Navy vessel.
Also on Saturday afternoon, Oticon sponsored a presentation by Curtis Alcock of the consulting firm Audira Think Tank who provided novel ideas about the hearing aid market and why we have the right product, but are using the wrong message to convince people to hear better. Alcock, using humorous slides and anecdotes, shows why our continued marketing emphasis on disability and focus on the negative aspects of aging are turning off consumers. For more information, see his and Douglas Beck’s article in the April 2014 edition of The Hearing Review.
On Saturday night, the IHS Gala Awards, sponsored by Miracle Ear, was hosted by Patricia Connelly, PhD, and recognized the Society’s long-standing members, as well as recent graduates of the American Conference of Audioprosthology (ACA), the baccalaureate-level course specifically designed for hearing instrument dispensers with two or more years of experience. The Hearing Review presented its Professional Leadership Award to outgoing IHS President Thomas Higgins for his two years of leadership during an exciting period of growth for the Society. The Hearing Journal presented its Joel S. Wernick Award for Dispenser Education to Doug Lewis, AuD, an audiologist and lawyer who has been deeply involved in professional education. Special recognition was also given at both the Membership Meeting and the Gala to Dr Connelly who has been instrumental in virtually everything related to professional education at IHS and NBC-HIS.