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November 11, 2003

Pennsylvania College of Optometry Raises Professional Standards for Audiologists With New Au.D. Program

From: Yahoo News (press release) - Nov 11, 2003

ELKINS PARK, Pa., Nov. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- As the Baby Boomer population enters their golden years and confronts the consequences of aging such as hearing loss and, as early intervention programs are better at identifying infants with auditory problems, experts predict that the demand for audiologists will increase significantly. The Pennsylvania College of Optometry, located in Elkins Park, PA, recently established the first professional School of Audiology, offering a Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) degree to prepare students to respond to the increased need for qualified hearing and balance specialists. PCO's audiology program is unique because it is based on a biomedical foundation, which stresses the hard sciences such as biology and chemistry in contrast to other Au.D. programs that focus on the theoretical and practical aspects of audiology only. The first students entered the 4-year residential Doctor of Audiology program in the Fall of 2003.

Scope of the Issue

Over 28,000,000 Americans have hearing impairments. Even more have balance problems. With people living longer it is clear that the demographics of our society call for a very significant increase in the number of Audiology practitioners in the future. There are fewer than 8,000 audiology practitioners today. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Audiology is expected to grow much faster than average for all occupations through the next decade. Pediatric audiology and audiologists trained to address hearing loss among aging Baby Boomers are two areas within Audiology that are positioned for tremendous growth. Audiologists are the primary specialists in the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of people with balance and dizziness problems. Audiologists conduct a wide variety of tests to determine the exact nature of a person's hearing or balance problem and interpret the results to recommend a course of treatment. These professionals are also trained to program cochlear and middle ear implants and provide the rehabilitation required for these patients.

Setting A New Standard

PCO, always a leader in the field of health care, established the School of Audiology based on their extensive, prestigious and proven biomedical curriculum. The College provides students with a solid, scientific understanding of hearing while developing students' clinical skills for professional practice. According to School of Audiology dean, Dr. George Osborne, "The residential Doctor of Audiology program represents a new model for the professional education of audiologists. Given the innovative curriculum, with a heavy focus on both basic and clinical science, and excellent professional practice opportunities in the greater Philadelphia area and throughout the country, graduates will not only be well prepared to take advantage of audiology's expanding scope of practice but will also be uniquely qualified to become the country's leading private practitioners."

The development of a Doctor of Audiology degree program comes in response to new standards in the profession mandating a doctorate degree for entry level practice. A major study conducted in 1997 by American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) determined the field had outgrown the master's degree, and ASHA members voted to raise the requirements for the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology to a doctoral degree. ASHA, however, does not determine the coursework that must be completed in order to earn an Au.D. Because traditional audiology programs have been housed within schools of education, these programs concentrate primarily on theory and fieldwork while PCO's professional degree program stresses scientific biomedical principles and intensive clinical training.

PCO is the only school of audiology that has established rigorous scientific requirements. PCO's School of Audiology has been described by the Executive Director of the Audiology Foundation of America as one of the country's "most robust and stringent" Au.D. programs.

According to Dr. Thomas Lewis, PCO President, "I am extremely pleased that the College has established the School of Audiology and offers the Au.D. With the program's biomedical foundation and emphasis on clinical contacts, graduates of this program will be the private practitioners of the future. Not only has PCO set a new standard for audiologists, we are ensuring more accurate and thorough diagnosis and treatment of patients. Our students will be eminently more qualified as private practitioners, thereby improving the prognosis of their patients and increasing the standards of the profession."

To date over 700 licensed experienced audiologists have enrolled in the School of Audiology distance education Au.D. program, a bridge program for licensed audiologists with Master's and Doctoral degrees who wish to earn the Au.D. degree. To learn more about PCO's School of Audiology programs of study in audiology, please contact the School of Audiology at 215.780.1238 or visit the Doctor of Audiology links on our website Contact: Leza Raffel 215-884-6499

Source: Pennsylvania College of Optometry