A bill seeking to increase the requirements to call yourself an audiologist in Idaho passed the Idaho House 37-30, but consideration of it is stalled in a Senate committee awaiting clarification on a provision in the bill. Or, more accurately, a provision that is not found in House Bill 34.
The bill reads as an amendment to Idaho Code §54-2912 “(b) Provide documentation satisfactory to the board that the applicant possesses a master’s degree doctoral degree with emphasis in audiology … “ The strikethrough indicates the master’s degree requirement would be struck from current law, replaced by the doctoral degree requirement.
Following the House vote, at least one member said he voted for it because he thought it contained a provision grandfathering those with master’s degrees. That is, they would be allowed to continue calling themselves audiologists.
Rep. Brandon Hixon, R-Caldwell, spoke with IdahoReporter.com and said he was assured that those with master’s degree would be grandfathered in and that the shift from a master’s degree requirement to a doctorate-only requirement would not affect the renewal of persons with a master’s degree. Hixon said that he voted in favor of the bill only with that understanding.
But the bill makes no reference to that.
That prompted the Idaho Speech and Hearing Services Board, when asked specifically by IdahoReporter.com about the lack of a grandfather clause in the bill, to issue the following comment: “Once the Board was made aware that there were some concerns and some misinformation regarding the bill, the Board asked the Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chairman to hold the bill so that the Board could work with any interested parties in the interim to be sure that any concerns and questions are addressed.”
The board under Idaho Code §54-2919 can provide a provisional permit that allows for, “a person to engage in the practice of audiology or speech-language pathology while completing either the required postgraduate experience or a comparable experience as part of a doctoral program in audiology as required by this chapter.”
But the issue of the ability of someone holding a master’s degree only to list himself as an audiologist appears to be a problem with the proposed legislation.
During House committee testimony on HB 34, members were told that the industry as a whole is shifting the requirements of audiologist’s certification away from a master’s program and more to a doctorate degree in order to practice audiology, which is a specialty involving hearing and balance issues.
The chairman of the Idaho State Board of Speech and Hearing Services, Dennis Bell, told IdahoReporter.com that “The board’s intent with its legislation was simply to update the educational qualification for an initial audiologist license to conform to the currently available nationally accredited audiology programs, which now require a doctoral degree.”
The requirement of a doctorate does not make sense to Rep. JoAn Wood, R-Rigby. “I can’t imagine why a doctor would want to come back here, once they got their doctorate, and I’m going to guess the only place they would want to come would be Boise, maybe Coeur d’Alene.” But, “why would they go into a rural area to serve? They won’t.”