Recently there more audiologists outside the United States that are looking toward the Doctor of Audiology Degree (Au.D.). The next topic at Hearing International is to look at the Au.D. and its proliferation in countries other than the United States. The Doctor of Audiology is defined as an individual that helps patients with hearing and balance problems primarily by diagnosing hearing loss and balance difficulties and fitting hearing aids and assistive listening devices for those with permanent hearing impairment. in many countries there are audiological physician programs that are quite different, the “new” Au.D. programs offer an educational experience that is a non-physician clinical track in the field of audiology emphasizing the clinical learning experience. Though many programs have a research component, this preparation is at the doctoral level and primarily prepares clinicians rather than researchers. Before we can look at the proliferation of the Au.D. around the world, it is necessary to overview some of the events that led to it’s development.
Where Did It Come From?
As the field of Audiology was maturing in the United States in the 1980s, there were some inherent problems. First and foremost among the issues was that, although the private practice segment of the field was growing, most of the providers were Master’s Degree audiologists. Not being a doctoral level provider became self limiting to the profession that fostered difficulties with third party payment and other reimbursement issues. This created a rather second-class profession compared to Optometry, Chiropractic, Psychology, Dentistry and especially with physicans. In addition, those 2-3% of audiologists practicing that did practice doctoral level had many different non descriptive designations, such as Ph.D., Ed.D., Sc.D., D.A, and a number of others; all of which offered no indication that audiology was their specialty. While there had been other unsuccessful efforts toward a professional doctorate in Audiology in the 1960s and 1970s; it was not until a 1988 Academy of Dispensing Audiologists (ADA) (former name for the Academy of Doctors of Audiology) meeting in Chicago that progress really began to move forward. While considered by some professionals as a “radical” move, it has proven to be a perceptive and profession building concept puts this group of audiologists as innovators. The working group consisting of Leo Doerfler, PhD (right); David Citron III, PhD; David Cieliczka, MS; George Osborne, PhD (Left); Susan Whichard, MS; David Goldstein, PhD (right); and Thomas Zachman, PhD., in their several meetings at the Pittsburgh Airport outlined the ideal clinical doctoral program for audiologists to provide services in a private practice setting. After much discussion, soul searching, consultations, and curriculum modifications; the working group decided upon the initial curriculum and that the designator for the new degree should be Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.). It was designed to produce audiologists skilled in providing diagnostic, rehabilitative, and other services within hearing, balance, and related audiological fields. While there were lots of individuals that were responsible for the refinement and further development of the Au.D., this committee actually put time, energy , effort and personal as well as ADA resources into its incubation and marketing of the new concept. The newly formed American Academy of Audiology (AAA) and the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) eventually approved the new degree and has endorsed it as the standard for audiologists in the United States since 2007. There was much discussion among academicians about the cosmetics of the specific programs and the specific implementation of the new degree program within their various institutions but the first the Doctor of Audiology Degrees (Au.D.) were awarded by Baylor University under the direction of Dr. James Jerger (left) in 1996. The Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) has now evolved as the professional degree for an audiologist. At most US universities, the residential program can typically be completed in 4-years if the student has a background in Speech-Language Pathology & Audiology/Communication Sciences and Disorders while students without a background will generally have to complete a second-bachelor’s program. Since 2007, most US audiology educational programs have moved the Doctor of Audiology degree format and virtually all recent Audiology graduates of residential programs are now designated with the Au.D. In the United States, after an Au.D. is obtained, virtually all states require a license before practicing audiology.
Once the Au.D credential became an obvious need by Master’s Degree practitioners, there were online programs established to offer distance learning programs. While there were programs offered initially at the Central Michigan/Vanderbilt University, University of Florida, Pennsylvania School of Optometry (now Salas University), Nova Southeastern University, and University of Arizona School of Health Sciences. Although Salus University and Central Michigan/Vanderbilt programs have now closed, the A.T. Still, University of Arizona School of Health Sciences, Nova Southeastern, and the University of Florida remain active and available. While there have been many international students in these programs the University of Florida reports that almost 20% of their current class is from outside the United States.
Next week at Hearing International we will discuss the specifics of the international component of these programs and how perspective students can secure admission to study for the Doctor of Audiology Degree online.