BSHAA Congress 2015: Connecting with everyone

For the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists it was all about connections at their 2015 annual congress. Whether it was connecting practical aspects of the presentations to the day-to-day hearing aid practice, connecting manufacturer products with trying to improve clients’ hearing or connecting with colleagues old and new, delegates were encouraged to make those associations.

As well as making these connections, BSHAA was keen to connect with its members. Peter Sydserff, BSHAA President, said in his programme notes, “We have something of an identity crisis and we cannot just rest upon the laurels of being named by the regulator as the professional society of choice for registered hearing aid dispensers. The identity crisis exists on more than one front; firstly who do we serve and secondly why BSHAA and not someone else? In order to get to the bottom of these mysteries we need to hear from you.”

It was no surprise to hear then that Sydserff’s objectives at his first congress as President was to talk and to listen to as many delegates as possible. Sydserff is determined to “create the opportunity for hearing aid audiologists to thrive” whichever business environment they exist in. With this in mind he welcomed more than 200 hearing aid dispensers to the 2015 BSHAA Congress, which was being held for the first time, at the Telford International Centre.

Addressing the connections congress theme, Sydserff said, “The time is right for us to work more closely with other organisations that can have an impact on improved outcomes for consumers of hearing healthcare services because we are the right people to do it and quite frankly, if we don’t, then no one else will. I am pleased to report that with many of these bodies and on nearly all issues we are pushing on an open door. We just need to pull together robust frameworks for hearing healthcare delivery that show real benefit to the hard of hearing public with a genuine evidence base behind it”.

“80% of what we do is the same.”

Sydserff told the audience that it was time to start making some choices about where they want to take themselves as a professional and how they want to get there, “Even where we observe that there are small differences in what we do and how we do it, we should be able to recognise that the common ground is where we all need to be represented. As just one example of this, your society is now an observer member of the European Association of Audiologists and their President is here tomorrow. When I asked Mark how he manages to pull together professional organisations from a dozen European markets his response is simple; 80% of what we do is the same – the rest is only about where it is done or how it’s paid for.”

Congress featured a broad range of speakers covering audiology topics, sales and social media, professional body and regulator issues. The keynote speaker was due to be Professor Louise Hickson from the University of Queensland. However, her colleague Dr Nerina Scarinci stepped in at the last minute. Speaking about connecting with clients and their families in audiological rehabilitation, Scarinci said, “I want to convince you that family members need to be there.” The Australian government has recently given the University $28m to do hearing research and Scarinci reported on six studies. The studies looked at opportunities to apply client and family-centred principles in clinical practice, potential strategies and new rehabilitation options for client engagement and potential strategies and rehab options to facilitate family member involvement.

Dr David Baguley, from Cambridge University Hospitals posed the question ‘Are we making any progress on tinnitus?’ In the last three weeks “A lovely piece of work has just broken through,” Baguley said. As well as discussing the current theories of tinnitus mechanisms and clinical best practice, Dr Baguley was able to report on a very recent study looking at intracranial mapping of a corticol tinnitus system using residual inhibition’ which has made some important new discoveries. In reviewing all the current treatment and management strategies, Baguley counselled that before a tinnitus treatment is made available it should be independently evaluated for harm, benefit and cost-efficacy. Dr Ariane Laplante-Levesque from the Eriksholm Research Centre, in Denmark, discussed the importance of shared decision making with audiology patients and shared four resources that she believes will help hearing aid dispensers succeed with promoting client participation. The results of study work underline the importance of a patient-centred and trusting approach to decision making.

Interview with Peter Sydserff, President of BSHAA

Peter Sydserff had been President of BSHAA for just six months at the time of congress, and much has happened in that time. Our journalist Victoria Adshead spoke to him after congress to see how he was getting on.

How was your first BSHAA congress as President?

It was brilliant - I really enjoyed the whole experience of meeting lots of our members and having the chance to explain how I see our future. I didn’t get to see all the lectures, but I know and I heard that they were all high quality. It was our biggest ever trade exhibition – exhibitors were pleased with the layout and venue and more importantly engagement with delegates. This is our biggest event of the year and I thought reflected well on how I want the Society to be seen by members and non-members alike.

What were your objectives -as BSHAA President - for congress, and did you achieve them?

My objectives were to talk to as many of our members as possible, listen to their views and to explain the challenges the Society and the profession face together in the coming years. Did I achieve them? I don’t think I could say, hand on heart that I spoke to every one of the 200 plus delegates but I did my best!

You have only been President for 6 months but much has happened in that time – how has it been from your perspective?

A challenging time overseeing outgoing leadership team and newly recruited CEO and Professional Development Consultant. Helping them understand what’s required is crucial and there is nothing surer than change – delighted to report that they are up to the challenge! Being Vice President for a couple of years before hand was helpful – I knew I had a genuine feel for the future direction for the society before I started.

What do you hope to achieve during your 2 year term? What would you count as a success?

Darwin observed that it is the most responsive to change that will survive and the success of my presidency will be judged on how we create the opportunity for hearing aid audiologists to thrive, rather than to be boxed in by as yet unforeseen threats. It won’t all happen before next November, but I’ll make a start.

When will you be appointing a vice president?

Presidency of the society is not an easy position to take on. It doesn’t pay, so you need to be operating in a very understanding business model! That said; discussions are ongoing and we hope to be able to appoint by the end of the year. We also need to make it easier for members (regardless of the business model they operate in) to feel that they can contribute at council level and this is high on the change agenda.

How are you fitting the work of the Presidency with your full time job?

In reality it isn’t. My (very understanding) employer has a shared vision for enhancing and extending the professionalism of hearing aid audiologists and that helps. Fortunately we both see a point in time when it will calm down and my operational focus can return to the day job.

What made you want to take the role of President?

I’m a hearing aid audiologist and a BSHAA member. I want it to really mean something to be both. I am also really keen that the society has a voice alongside other professions and associations in decisions that directly benefit outcomes for consumers of hearing healthcare (wherever they choose to access it).

Victoria Adshead, editor in chief of Audio Infos UK

Photo: BSHAA CEO, David Welbourn with President Peter Sydserff. ©V.A.