Unison Could Be the Catalyst for Lasting Change

By Michael Collins, AuD

In a post earlier this year, I discussed what I believe to be audiology’s greatest enemy: Ourselves. One commenter, who seemed to agree with the overall premise of my post, quoted Karl Strom in response:

More than ever before, the professions of dispensing audiology and hearing aid specialists need each other. A joint convention—politically unthinkable just 10 years ago—might just be one of the revolutionary moves our industry needs

Interestingly, as if it was a premonition (which Karl is reported to have no prior knowledge of), his suggestion actually came to fruition only a short time after he called on the professions to unite for the benefit of all. The announcement of the Unison Global Hearing Health Summit sent shock waves throughout the professions and the industry as a whole.

No Better Time Than Now

As the summit organizers pointed out, the numbers simply speak for themselves: there are only 25,000 audiologists and hearing aid specialists in the US combined to take care of the 40 million people with hearing loss.

By comparison, there are approximately 40,000 Optometrists and nearly 60,000 Dispensing Opticians; 200,000 Physical Therapists; 120,000 SLPs.

At a combined total of about 25,000, the hearing care professions have an uphill battle, even when completely unified toward a common goal.

Divisions No Longer Make Sense

While it’s true that hearing instrument specialists and audiologists may have sometimes competing agendas, the reality is that we should have more commonalities than we do sources for division. In fact, I suspect with strong certainty that audiology probably has more issues internally than it does with other professions.

gtgDivisions are costly.

Case in point: the time, energy and dollars spent on competing legislative agendas–and subsequently attacking the other organization’s “bad legislation”–is utter lunacy. It makes the profession look divided publicly and does not instill the needed confidence in our legislators that we are firmly committed behind a piece of legislation.

Unison Summit: Tremendous Opportunity

At no other time in the past was it politically feasible to unite the professions in such a significant way. The Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) and the International Hearing Society (IHS) should be recognized for their tremendous leadership and willingness to put aside long-standing differences between the professions for the benefit of their members and hearing care as a whole.

The time is now to recognize that the issues facing our collective professions have never been greater than they are today.

Escaping our comfort zone of familiarity is the only way we are going to meet today’s challenges.

We are so accustomed to the comforts of “I cannot”, “I do not want to” and “it is too difficult” that we forget to realize when we stop doing things for ourselves and expect others to dance around us, we are not achieving greatness. We have made ourselves weak.” ― Pandora Poikilos{{1}}[[1]] Excerpt from Excuse Me, My Brains Have Stepped Out [[1]]

unsWhen ADA and IHS started the Unison Summit, they left the door open for others organizations to join them. While I don’t anticipate that the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) or the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) will offer a glowing endorsement, anything could happen.

I, for one, am hopeful that the Unison Summit will prove to be a catalyst for a lasting, positive change in the industry.

*featured image courtesy keepcalm-o-matic

Michael Collins, AuD is an audiologist with experience in private practice and within industry working for a major hearing aid manufacturer. Dr. Collins believes that independent hearing care practitioners can and will continue to thrive in the future, but only if they shift their focus away from just technology, and instead commit to best practices and greater personalization of the patient experience.

About HHTM

HHTM's mission is to bridge the knowledge gaps in treating hearing loss by providing timely information and lively insights to anyone who cares about hearing loss. Our contributors and readers are drawn from many sectors of the hearing field, including practitioners, researchers, manufacturers, educators, and, importantly, consumers with hearing loss and those who love them.


  1. The Unison Summit is not the bed of roses that the Academy of Doctors of Audiology’s (ADA) Board would like you to believe. There is mounting opposition from past ADA leaders and ADA members, including myself (a past ADA president) over the ADA Board’s actions with the International Hearing Society (IHS).

    Over the last three years, the ADA Board secretively met with IHS and formed a new 501c3 nonprofit corporation partnership, i.e., the Hearing Healthcare Education Coalition (HHEC), for the purpose of foregoing each organization’s respective annual convention and creating the Unison Summit. This business partnership was created without any ADA member’s knowledge or consideration, i.e., the members were totally excluded until after the fact. Our position is that the HHEC and the Union Summit are not in the best interest of ADA, its members, the audiology profession, nor our patients. We believe that having no new partnership is far better for ADA and its members than to have a new partnership with the wrong partners.

    If there are other ADA members reading this and are also concerned about the ADA Board’s ill-conceived partnership with the IHS, please contact me offline for more information at myinnerear@cox.net.


    Larry Engelmann, Au.D.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Larry.

      While many of us would have assumed that these agreements were probably done quietly, I can certainly understand some members (from both organizations) being upset about the secretive arrangements made without member input. Although, can we imagine anything of this magnitude could have ever happened by any other means? Probably not.

      If enough members are upset, they can drop their ADA membership and/or run for election on the ADA/IHS boards and begin to reverse course. It’s possible this event turns out to be an epic failure–but, I think its time has come and that it’s also time to “bury the hatchet” as they say, with our dispenser colleagues.

      Times have changed. The hearing industry as a whole has changed dramatically, especially in the last 5-10 years. I think this is an experiment worth trying.

  2. Cynthia Compton-Conley, Ph.D., Director, Consumer Technology Initiatives, Hearing Loss Association of America says:

    I totally agree. The continued animosity among the big three (AAA, ADA, and ASHA) is, frankly, tiring. It makes our profession look ridiculous to not only policy-makers but also to patients, students, insurance companies and other stake-holders. It’s time to reach reach across the aisle and work it out once and for all. Kudos to ADA for showing leadership and courage.

Comments are closed.