Accreditation of audiology programs: A view from within (first in a series)

Ross Roeser

By Ross Roeser

Having been one of the fortunate audiologists invited to the founding meeting of the American Academy of Audiology, I vividly remember that it was then that I heard for the first time the notion of the Doctor of Audiology becoming the new designator for the profession of audiology.

What a unique concept! Not only would audiologists have a professional organization that was by audiologists and for audiologists, but there would also be a degree designator that would identify audiologists to the public as being competent and qualified to provide quality audiology services. The audiology profession had finally come of age. That was in 1988, almost 25 years ago.

Today, it is clear that audiology has indeed prospered in many areas over the past quarter century. Suffice it to say that audiology is now considered among the top five health care professions in the US. The advances in hearing care technology have raised the demand for qualified professionals for the diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss across the lifespan.

Now that audiology has begun to realize a place in today’s healthcare arena there is a need to address future needs and challenges. Without a doubt, the establishment of accepted and uniform basic educational standards that represent quality in audiology education is THE most important need in the profession.

It is disturbing to talk to students from some Doctor of Audiology (AuD) programs who don’t begin their involvement until their third year, or to hear students say that they had only minimal contact with electrophysiology or vestibular assessment throughout their four-year program, or to learn that students were placed in their externship site for 9 months or a year without any contact from their university. These types of comments do not reflect excellence in audiology education. Audiology must do better to preserve its proper place in the health care arena.

 

THE ACCREDITATION DILEMMA

The Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA) and the Accreditation Commission for Audiology and Education (ACAE) both promulgate standards that are intended to set minimum standards for excellence in audiology (and, in the case of ACC, speech-language pathology) programs.  [Editor’s note: These two accreditation programs were discussed last year in the September 13 and September 20 Hearing Views.]

At present, all 72 clinical doctoral audiology programs hold CAA accreditation, but only a handful of AuD programs have also received ACAE accreditation. Of course, ACAE has been in existence for only a few years, compared to almost 50 years for CAA.

The dilemma for AuD programs that are housed within universities with joint AuD/SLP curricula is that these programs must be accredited by CAA because of the intricate tie between audiology and speech-language pathology. Universities generate formula funding based on student enrollment. SLP enrollments are significantly higher than audiology, by as much as 5:1 or more. This means that audiology faculty have to participate not only in the initial and the annual activities required for CAA accreditation, which demand several devoted weeks of full-time attention each year, but they also will have to complete and participate in ongoing ACAE activities if they are to obtain its accreditation.

Plus, to be ACAE accredited, the university will have to pay the added expense involved in applying for and maintaining this accreditation.

There is not one faculty member I know who is looking for more to do. Universities expect faculty members to become active in research; generating extramural funding is now not only expected from tenure-track faculty, but required if the faculty member wants to remain employed at most universities. That is a fact. Non-tenured faculty are also looked upon much more favorably if they can obtain extramural funding. However, spending time working on accreditation is not something that university administrations reward.

With their funding having been significantly reduced—as is the case in virtually all aspects of life these days–university administrators aren’t thrilled to hear that additional funding might be needed for a second accreditation in an area that already is accredited by one organization. They will ask, what are the advantages of any accreditation to the university?

This is not to say that doctor of audiology programs shouldn’t enthusiastically pursue ACAE accreditation. They must in order to keep the audiology profession moving toward the goal of quality. In part two of this series, we will look at why this is the case.

 

Ross Roeser, PhD, is Professor and Head of the Doctor of Audiology Program at the University of Texas at Dallas/Callier Center for Communication Disorders, and Executive Director Emeritus of the Callier Center. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Audiology, and was the founding Editor of Ear & Hearing.