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January 12, 2014
Dear WSAA Members and Friends:
Several weeks ago, the WSAA Board was notified by the lobbyist for Washington Speech Language Hearing Association (WSLHA) of a proposed bill coming before the Washington State House of Representatives that has been endorsed by the International Hearing Society (IHS) and by large hearing care retailers such as Costco and Miracle Ear. IHS and its state counterparts report that Washington's degree requirement for dispensers has caused significant difficulty for businesses such as Costco and other hearing care retailers to find qualified help. They contend that the two colleges with certification programs (Bates & Spokane Falls) are not graduating enough HIS students per year to meet demand.
Currently, Washington is one of the only states that requires any significant formal education (A.A. degree) before receiving licensure as a hearing aid dispenser. Our predecessors worked diligently to make sure that the licensure laws were in the best interest of our patients’ safety and health.
After weeks of negotiations and discussions with colleagues and representatives of WAA (Washington Audiology Alliance), WSHLA and Costco, some favorable modifications to the original proposal were agreed upon. However, the WSAA Board has determined that it still cannot support the proposal in its current form.
On January 16th, the proposed licensure bill is being heard in the House Health Care & Wellness Committee at 11am.
Here is what House Bill 2108 suggests:
Hearing Instrument Dispensers should
* Complete a minimum of a 2-year degree at any accredited college or university in any discipline;
* Complete 520 hours (65 - 8 hour days) of training under the direct supervision of an experienced licensed Hearing Instrument Fitter /Dispenser or Audiologist;
* Successfully pass the International Hearing Society's Distance Learning Program for Professionals in Hearing Health Sciences, or equivalent; and
* Successfully pass the International Licensing Exam (ILE)
Once the apprentice completes the 520 hours of directly supervised training and passes the Distant Learning Program, he or she would then be allowed to work semi-independently under the indirect supervision of an experienced licensed Hearing Instrument Fitter/Dispenser or Audiologist. During the apprenticeship, the individual is provided the opportunity to complete the required 2 year college or university degree program (if not yet completed) and study for the ILE. At the completion of this alternative pathway, the permit holder must sit for the State's Licensure Exam in order to be licensed.
We would like to strongly encourage our members to contact our state legislators to let them know we are against the proposed legislation. We don’t have much time. You must act now. We have the opportunity to stand up for what we believe is right for our patients and for Audiology in the state of Washington.
Here’s what you can do right now:
The Board would like to thank Nancy Bowen-Hicks for her tireless effort on our behalf as well as Kevin Liebe, GRC Chair and we thank you for your support of Audiology in Washington. We appreciate your help and look forward to bringing a voice for Audiology to the steps of the Capitol in Olympia.
The WSAA Board