I must first take a moment to confess that I naively was unaware of the vulnerability of the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Act of 2015 (S. 2424). We have no shortage of data that indicates that the most predictive element of successful outcomes in children with hearing loss is early identification and early intervention to mitigate the impact of hearing loss on speech and language development. Though I do not specialize in pediatric audiology, and work with all ages across the lifespan, as an audiologist, I understand and appreciate the importance of the legislation that mandates these services. In fact, I am sure that each of us can recall a unique experience from our training or practice that emphasizes the astounding success of a patient when these services are available.
In August 2016, I received a forwarded email from my home state of Washington’s professional academy providing an update on legislative activities. The original email was sent from the American Academy of Audiology Government Relations Committee seeking volunteers to attend fundraising events for Senator Patty Murray. Senator Murray (D-WA) is a senior member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which is due to review and vote on S. 2424. This bill, reauthorizing funding for EHDI programs, will likely be considered by the Senate this fall.
I am not an experienced political lobbyist nor do I have a background in government or fundraising. I am a regular audiologist juggling professional responsibilities with family and personal obligations…but something about this request resonated with me. One of the events landed on a date when my calendar was clear, and I replied to the email. I admit that I felt intimidated and a little nervous hitting send. My knowledge of political fundraisers is limited to episodes of the House of Cards and the West Wing.
Shortly after sending the email, I received a reply from Academy staff who quickly alleviated my concerns and provided assistance and guidance on how to represent the Academy and the Washington State Academy of Audiology. They also called me personally to answer questions and prepare me with talking points for meeting with Senator Murray, including the list of co-sponsors of the EHDI bill. The Academy made my participation easy. They replied on my behalf, covered the attendance fees, and sent logistical information.
Attending the event was both exciting and eye opening. The event had a networking vibe, and the other attendees were very friendly. I found that I rarely needed to introduce myself as others were quick to provide introductions. I was struck by the number of healthcare providers in attendance. Apparently many bills are reviewed by the HELP Committee, and making a personal appearance and introduction may be necessary to allow significant legislation to stand out from the thousands of bills that pass through the House and Senate each year. I am happy to report that Senator Murray was very engaging and willing to listen to the importance of EHDI reauthorization. She requested additional information and asked to be updated to keep her knowledge current and avoid the possibility that S. 2424 may be lost in the chaos of an election year.
I share this experience in the hope that it inspires those of you that have considered reaching out to your state leaders but have perhaps remained reticent feeling that you may not have enough time or related experience. The time commitment of this experience from hitting reply to the email, receiving information, and attending the event was approximately three hours. You are the Academy. You are the profession. There are opportunities for all of us to participate actively. The Academy provides support and makes these experiences smooth and manageable.
For more information, contact Kate Thomas, senior director of advocacy and reimbursement.