- Published on 06 November 2023
A delegate count of 650+ was just one of the highlights of the British Academy of Audiology's 2023 Annual Conference, held over two days from November 2 in Coventry.
The 19th British Academy of Audiology Conference opened with a roar inside a football stadium - the Coventry Building Society Arena - sheltering a record audiology crowd from the rainbands of Storm Ciarán.
But it was an ebullient congregation that filled the stadium's conference facilities to capacity - over 640 delegates plus organisers and busy sections from both the hearing industry and professions - mingling for coffee around the trade exhibition prior to the BAA's first speeches and lectures two floors above.
And it was there, to a hall of cabaret-style seating - chairs around large round tables sans cocktails or Sinatras - that BAA President Samantha Lear set the tone for a memorable morning by telling the floor that "we need to prepare for a challenging year ahead".
Even before President Lear introduced the first lecture - UK paediatric audiology: climbing a mountain or climbing out of a hole? - the audience knew that it was the challenge of a "rough" past two years focusing on failings in audiology (NHS Scotland) that was to trap everyone's attention.
Beginning her Bamford Lecture with a tremulous voice, newly appointed BAA Vice President Claire Benton, Consultant Clinical Scientist (Audiology) at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS trust, instantly conveyed the despair of many in the profession at not only the failings that have brought it humiliation but the manner in which fingers were pointed as NHS and government managers worked through a process of review and recommendations. Benton's sharply-quilled speech thinned out anger with irony but struck a frank note that many delegates fiercely applauded.
On behalf of her professional colleagues, she accepted responsibilities and passionately lamented the "appalling" damage to the lives of an estimated 3,000 child hearing loss cases missed in diagnoses. But Benton did not shirk from condemnation of a debilitating funding shortage and recruitment crisis in audiology, as well as ruinous training deficiencies. The list of carefully reasoned and strongly advised recommendations she delivered showed her time on stage was not being used to merely show off wounds and defend colleagues.
"It's not just paediatrics, this is our whole profession," said Benton, calling for both the implementation of standards of quality assurance and greater professional discipline from audiologists.
"We should not be marking our own homework," she blasted.
If the BAA sees fit to publish the entire speech in whatever form, this should be essential reading for any audiologist. Look out for an interview with Benton in the pages of Audiology News UK and online on Audiology Worldnews as 2024 begins.
Biggest ever UK Audiology conference?
The BAA 2023 Conference ran two days, featuring a packed sector exhibition space with over 50 stands, a full programme of educational lectures from international speakers, the event's biggest ever research poster section, breakout sessions and workshops, and plenty of networking, some of this at a disco-themed party on the first night.
The organisers confirmed that the figure of 640+ delegates was the highest attendance ever at a BAA Conference, and that this event may have been the best attended of any UK audiology conference to date.
Source: AWN live reporting