Craig Johnson, former ADA president and advocate for autonomy in audiology, dies

Craig Johnson
Craig Johnson

OWINGS MILLS, MD—Craig W. Johnson, a pioneering audiologist who founded and ran the first private audiology practice in Maryland and then became a leading advocate for his profession, died on October 9.

A native of Baltimore, Johnson was one of the few audiologists ever to simultaneously hold leadership positions with two major professional audiology organizations. He served on the board of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) from 1998 to 2008, including a two-year term as president from 2004 to 2006. During this same period, he also chaired AAA’s Governmental Affairs Committee and its Political Action Committee.

He leaves behind an enduring legacy at the state and national levels. He helped found the Maryland Academy of Audiology in 1992, served as its president in 1997, and was legislative chairperson from 1996 until his death. His efforts helped bring about universal infant hearing screening in the state and the passage of legislation giving patients freedom of choice in selecting their hearing aids.

In his work with AAA’s Government Affairs Committee, he championed legislation that led to the inclusion of audiologists as limited licensed providers in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and provided a $1400 benefit per hearing aid for workers covered by that program.

Johnson was also one of the prominent early champions of audiologic autonomy. A strong supporter of the doctor of audiology degree (he received his AuD in 2000 from Nova Southeastern University), he worked effectively to increase the independence of practitioners and the profession’s control over its educational standards.

 

TRIBUTES FROM COLLEAGUES

Craig Johnson’s untimely death prompted an outpouring of tributes on the American Academy of Audiology’s online General Audiology Digest.

Barry Freeman, a former AAA president, wrote, “We lost a true friend and champion of the profession with the passing of Dr. Craig Johnson. He was a visionary and his passion, laughter, and smile will be greatly missed.”

Angela Loavenbruck, who also served as president of the academy, called Johnson “a one-of-a-kind champion of our profession.” She added that he “was responsible for so many of the early initiatives for true autonomy of our field. He was part of a generation of audiologists who understood the need for audiologists to acknowledge that ours was a unique profession and for us to own our destiny, from accreditation of academic programs to the independent practice of the profession.”

 

A TRAILBLAZER FROM THE START

In August 1977, a year after receiving his master’s degree in audiology from Towson University, Johnson founded Audiology Associates, Inc., the first private audiology practice in Maryland. That same month, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) lifted its ban against dispensing hearing aids for profit. The business thrived, expanding to eight freestanding offices in the greater Baltimore area.

Despite his extensive involvement in professional issues in audiology, Johnson never wavered in his commitment to his practice and his patients. As a clinician, he emphasized the importance of talking to patients about their life experiences, since he believed that understanding lifestyle and experiences is one of the most important factors in restoring their communicative abilities.

 

PROFESSIONAL HONORS

Craig Johnson’s extraordinary contributions to audiology did not go unrecognized. In 2000 and again in 2004 he received the President’s Award for Distinguished Service from the American Academy of Audiology. The Academy of Doctors of Audiology presented him with its Audiology Awareness Award in 2009.

Craig Johnson is survived by his wife, Barbara Johnson (née Bittel); children Alan Johnson, Lauren Johnson, Andrea (Adam) Weinstein, and Melissa (Leor) Segev; and three grandchildren.

Contributions in his memory may be sent to HopeWell Cancer Support, P.O. Box 755, Brooklandville, MD 21022.

 

 

ON A PERSONAL NOTE

As someone who came to know and admire Craig Johnson while covering the hearing care field, I was especially impressed by his unfailing good nature and optimism. Fighting to enact legislation and to change government policies is a frustrating and often discouraging battle. Yet, somehow, Craig never seemed to get tired or downhearted. He maintained an almost boyish enthusiasm for the cause and an unshakable confidence that the good guys would prevail. I also appreciated his endless patience and good humor in fielding the questions that journalists, including myself, asked him.

I suspect that Craig owed much of his success in advancing the interests of audiology to his personality. Whether you agreed with him or not, his affable persistence, his modest manner, and his obvious good will made it hard to say no to him.  

David H. Kirkwood, Editor, Hearing News Watch