by Professor Bob Cowan, Conference Committee Chair
Held at Sydney’s state-of-the art International Convention and Exhibition Centre at Darling Harbour, Audiology Australia’s 50th Anniversary National Conference 2018 – entitled “Harbouring holistic hearing health” attracted over 1500 delegates to its 4 days of scientific and clinical presentations, and associated Workshops and Instructional Courses.
Post-congress feedback from international and Australian delegates confirms the high scientific and clinical standard of the entire scientific program, which featured presentations across the wide spectrum of clinical audiology and hearing research.
Audiology Australia 2018 also featured the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest Trade Exhibition, with Australian and international hearing device manufacturers and service agencies providing delegates with the opportunity to gain awareness of the latest in technology and clinical procedures to benefit their clients. The Trade Exhibition was well complemented by a Consumer Agency Forum, hosted by Australia’s HEARing Cooperative Research Centre, which featured service provision from many of the early intervention and client self-help groups located in New South Wales and nationally.
The Conference kicked off with a comprehensive programme of 15 Workshops and Instructional courses, attended by over 700 delegates to gain new, or upgrade current skills for Continuing Professional Development. In depth workshops on tinnitus management, wax management, new mapping/fitting tools for hearing aids and cochlear implants, auditory rehabilitation, electrophysiological evaluation, and functional listening are just examples of the breadth of skill development courses that were offered and attended.
The Workshop/Instructional course sessions were completed by the Deafness Forum’s Libby Harricks Memorial Oration, held in conjunction with the AudA2018 conference. Delivered by Mr Graeme Innes AM, it provided a very real insight into the challenges overcome by past leaders in achieving recognition and equality of access for those with hearing disability in our community.
The conference proper was opened by with a video from the Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health, in which he announced major funding initiatives for hearing healthcare for indigenous and rural Australians, as well as stressing the important contributions made by Audiology Australia and its members in leading hearing science and clinical practice since its inception 50 years ago. He noted that Australia leads the world in paediatric hearing healthcare as well as cochlear implant technology, and our services to adults and veterans are best practice internationally.
Each day of the conference was themed on a plenary lecture and roundtables.
A highlight of every Audiology Australia National Conference is the presentation of the Denis Byrne Memorial Lecture, honouring the memory of Dr Denis Byrne, who led the National Acoustic Laboratories and made major contributions to hearing aid prescription processes world-wide. This year, the lecture was delivered by Professor Richard Dowell, one of the first audiologists to work with Professor Graeme Clark AC’s research team in the development of the first cochlear implant that later went on to underpin Cochlear Limited’s world-wide commercial success. Richard shared his long-term perspective on the impact of cochlear implants on science and clinical audiology.
The second keynote was delivered by Professor Blake Papsin, Director of Sick Childrens’ Hospital Cochlear Implant Program in Toronto. Blake’s delivered a highly entertaining and informative lecture on single-sided deafness, a topic of growing importance in clinical practice. The keynote program was rounded out by a lecture from Macquarie University’s Professor Amanda Barnier that gave new insight on cognition and ageing with hearing loss and how couples can scaffold information to assist each other in communication.
Six Round Table sessions featured Australian and international speakers covering a range of topics from NDIS, mental health and hearing loss, the changing face of technology and candidature, working with older adults and their families, and recreational sound risks, consequences, prevention and challenges. Panels of experts fielded questions, with delegates providing input through crowd-voting technology, creating a great opportunity for exchange of ideas and thoughts on topical issues in clinical practice.
Conference sessions featured 148 oral papers, 36 short communications, and over 60 poster presentations. A number of presentations were singled out to receive awards based on delivery and content.
The Laurie Upfold Award 2018 is presented at each conference for the best new young presenter, and this year was won by Ms Rakshita Gokula from Macquarie University/HEARing CRC. The Best Poster Award 2018 was jointly given to Ms Mariana Dos Reis from Macquaire University/HEARing CRC and Ms Kate Lewkowski from Curtin University.
Conference sponsors Phonak Australia, Signia, Otometrics, Starkey, Cochlear, Oticon Australia, and Bernafon provided dedicated technology update sessions, whilst sponsor The HEARing CRC was represented by some 40 research papers, workshops and posters during the conference.
The Audiology Australia 2018 meeting also represented a major opportunity for Continuing Professional Development for delegates, with CPD points on offer for all of the above sessions.
The 50th Anniversary Conference was also a great networking opportunity, with some 60% of the professional coming together, to meet with colleagues and the Audiology Australia Board of Directors, and to enjoy a range of social events celebrating its 50 years of service in Sydney’s wonderful Darling Harbour precinct.
Professor Bob Cowan is the CEO of HEARing CRC, a Principal Research Fellow of the University of Melbourne and an Adjunct Professor at Macquarie University. He has extensive experience in the management and commercialisation of research having published extensively in the fields of audiology, cochlear implants, sensory devices and biomedical management – he also holds a number of Australian and international technology patents and trademarks.