The National Board for Certification in Hearing Instrument Sciences (NBC-HIS), established in 1981, develops and administers a test for measuring the competency of hearing health professionals. It is the only board certification program in the hearing health care industry that is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. The Hearing Review recently heard from Wayne Jacobson, BC-HIS, chairman of the organization, about certification.

What is the importance of certification for today’s hearing professional?
a In today’s competitive marketplace, board certification gives a distinction that can be used by the hard-of-hearing public when deciding on which practitioner to entrust with their hearing. Not only can the consumer use this as a distinction, but it also separates the professional among his/her non-board colleagues.

What kind of challenges are associated with certification?
There are many challenges. The certificants must be familiar with the latest technology to pass the examination. It is also difficult to study for because the examination is competency-based instead of a science-based test. There may be more than one right answer. From our perspective, the challenges are to write an effective competency exam and keep it current. All of the items used in an exam are evaluated to see how relevant they are to the practice scale they are associated with and also how relevant they are to the entire test and the role model. By using this type of thorough evaluation of each item, the test is constantly evolving. Analyzing items and generating new items for the item bank is an ongoing challenge.

What is the state of certification today?
Board certification is becoming more important all the time. There are a number of states in which a practitioner must be board certified before they can practice. The consumer is also becoming more educated and looking for more than just a place that sells hearing aids. Board certification is one of the distinctions the consumer looks at. When given the choice of trusting their hearing to someone who had demonstrated the skill and competency to become board certified versus someone who had not, it is easy to guess which way their decision-making process would go.

 Randy Morgan
President and CEO
Westone Laboratories Inc

Westone Laboratories Inc, Colorado Springs, Colo, is a full service custom earmold laboratory, offering a wide range of impression materials and supplies, in addition to assistive listening devices and other products. HR recently spoke with Randy Morgan, Westone’s president and CEO, about technology and its influence on his company.

What role does your company play in the hearing health care marketplace?
Westone was built on a commitment to our customers. Our customers are our specialty. Simply put, it is our goal to take care of them—and to exceed their expectations. By listening to our customers’ concerns, needs, and ideas, we have created new products, refined existing products, explored new technologies, and developed new markets. We maintain a full-time four-person Tech Services staff, including two staff audiologists, to respond to our customers’ needs and stay current with industry developments.

What do you see as some of the bigger challenges for the hearing health care industry?
We believe that understanding and educating the patient remains the industry’s biggest challenge. There has been a rapid introduction of new technologies and a wide variety of products to the marketplace—not just for amplified hearing applications, but for hearing protection, communication, and recreational pursuits. Helping the patient understand the advantages and limitations of the various options, as well as spreading the word on options they never knew existed, remains key to industry growth.

What are your thoughts on the future of the industry?
As 3D and digital mapping technology advances, and the price becomes more reasonable, we will ultimately become an “impressionless” industry. Earmolds and hearing instruments will be simply ordered online. With the spread of hearing protection education, and as the stigma associated with wearing something in your ear decreases, more sophisticated hearing protection and communication solutions will be made available. Based on current technological advances, we envision the day when you will be able to perform many day-to-day functions by simply “speaking out of your ear.” We believe that Westone will be there with the finest custom-fit earpieces available.