Jay B. McSpaden, PhD, died early Saturday morning, March 31, in his hometown of Lebanon, Ore, after a long illness. He was 79.
Dr McSpaden has had a profound influence on the field of audiology and hearing instrument sciences for the past four decades. A prolific writer, he published over 100 papers in The Hearing Review and other journals throughout his career, with topics ranging from basic tympanometry to patient histories to best practices, many of which have become staples in college curricula and training courses. He served as an editorial advisory board (EAB) member of The Hearing Review since the EAB’s inception, and was a vocal and valuable resource for this and other magazines. A highly sought-after lecturer, his presentations at national, regional, and state conventions often drew standing-room-only crowds due to his practicality and candor, great story telling, and often-blunt commentary. And although he did not suffer fools gladly, he will probably be best remembered for his kindness, caring, and self-deprecating humor. Many in the field consider him a mentor.
Born in 1939 to Harold Lee “Jug” and Eva Mae Frisbee in Malden, Mass, Jay came into the world as the son of one of the most accomplished golfers of the 1930s and 40s. Byron Nelson and Jay’s father, Jug McSpaden, were known as the “Gold Dust Twins” for their propensity to finish first and second in tournaments, with Jug winning 17 PGA tournaments including a record run of 31 top-10 finishes in 1945. Jay’s middle name was Byron, in honor of his godfather, and he came to understand at an early age the steadfast dedication and attention to detail required for someone to be truly “world class.” Recounting how his father would endlessly hit buckets of balls with the “club of the day” into a net on their porch during the winter or at a large towel strewn on a field during the summer, Jay would sonorously recall his father’s words: “It’s not practice that makes perfect, but perfect practice that makes perfect.”
Although he might have followed his father into golf, Jay injured his back in a parachuting exercise during his service in the US Marines Corp during the Vietnam Era, effectively ending any hope of a golf career. However, this was to the great benefit of many people, because it ultimately brought him into the relatively young field of audiology.
After graduating from Mount Angel College in 1967, McSpaden accepted a grant from the Teacher Preparation Program for Teachers of the Deaf and got hooked on hearing healthcare and the questions surrounding audition and hearing loss. He then entered the VA trainee program in Seattle, graduating from the University of Washington in 1971. In the spring of that same year, he accepted a position with the VA hospital in Houston where he saw patients for 4 days a week and worked with audiology research legend James Jerger, PhD, in Dr Jerger’s lab one day a week—which Jay said was the luckiest thing that ever happened to him in his career. McSpaden wrote in the July 2016 HR, “Jim insisted that anyone who worked in the lab with him document everything so we could always go back and find the antecedent for any outcomes or behaviors we observed. He also taught us how to listen actively to the patient. That sounds like a small thing until you practice doing it.”
“Both Susan and I were saddened by the news that Jay had passed,” wrote Dr Jerger to HR. “He was an inspired audiologist, a prolific contributor to the literature, and a friend to all who were privileged to know and to work with him. He will be greatly missed.”
By the spring of 1976, McSpaden had been promoted to Chief of Audiology and Speech Pathology at the hospital. Fearful of working in a job that largely entailed what he saw as “pushing paper,” he abruptly quit and began working with another audiology legend, Hayes Newby, PhD, teaching courses at the University of Maryland. He would later assist Native Americans with hearing loss at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, then go on to establish his own private practice in Lebanon, Ore. In the late 1970s, he began writing hearing-related articles for his friend, Marjorie Skafte, editor of Hearing Instruments magazine, and would usually publish several influential articles each year, and this continued until last year.
Dr McSpaden was also very involved in organizations like the International Institute for Hearing Instrument Studies (IIHIS), with a focus on developing educational and training materials for hearing care professionals. “Jay was passionate about education and was always ahead of the curve,” said Kathy Harvey-Jones, MEd, BC-HIS, who often worked with McSpaden at IIHIS and on other projects. “His mind was a wonderful maze, each thought opening up so many new paths to new thoughts. I loved his generous nature and his loyalty to our profession and the individuals we serve. Jay often contributed articles to our professional journals. He loved sharing his thoughts and knowledge, and he worked diligently on committees within IHS and taught many seminars at our international conventions and state/province meetings. Jay was so passionate and inspired passion in others. He will be sorely missed. I will miss him. I see his smiling face as I write this. I will feel his influence forever.”
McSpaden was also a fervent advocate for the professions of audiology and hearing aid specialists finding more common ground and working together, with the goal of providing better hearing care for larger numbers of people.
Dr McSpaden leaves behind his wife, Corlene and his daughter Dana (both of whom are audiologists and speech language pathologists), his sons Sean and Harold Anthony, and 6 grandchildren. A service will be held at a later date. Condolences may be sent to Corlene McSpaden, PO Box 1043, Jefferson, OR 97352. Memorial donations may be sent to the Benedictine Sisters at Mt Angel, Ore, or Dornbecker’s Children’s Hospital.
Jay introduced me into the real world of audiology as my first supervisor 40 years ago. He became my mentor and a friend. I will miss his incredible wealth of knowledge, sharp wit, and enthusiasm for those we serve. Thank God there’s no hearing loss in heaven, or he’d would still be at it! Jay, I hope to see you again some day.
Never really knew jay but has always been a legend in my mind. Seems like I have read hundreds of articles with his name attached too. His daughter Dana was a teacher in our Audioprosthology classes along with Ralph Hichox who are also both legends in my mind mentored by the LEGEND JAY McSpaden. We will never forget you.
I am so sorry to hear of Jay’s passing. I remember the first time I heard him at a Georgia Society of Hearing Professionals meeting, and numerous times later at IHS meetings. This was a wonderful tribute Karl and very fitting for this man who gave so very much to our industry.
Jay was a friend & mentor to all he encountered.
Well done good & faithful.
I am deeply saddened to learn that my dear friend and mentor, Dr. Jay B.McSpaden, has passed. As past-president of the International Hearing Society and past-chairman of the International Institute for Hearing Instrument Studies, I worked closely with Jay and learned to love and admire him for his brilliance and jovial personality. In the classroom or lecture hall, he was unsurpassed. He made learning fun and always challenged one to “think out of the box!” He was “one of a kind” and surely will be missed,not only by his friends, but by the entire hearing care profession!
I remember listening to Jay speak at IHS conferences more than once. He always captured my interest well and was was a very pleasant man to talk too. Jay contributed much to our industry and will be missed by all who knew him and read his exceptional articles. My prayers and hugs for his family and friends are being sent your way.
I am so sorry to hear of Jay’s passing. Thank you, Karl, for this nice article that reminds us of Jay’s exceptionally interesting personal and professional history, and his many contributions. He was an exceptional person who I had the privilege of interviewing for HR a couple of times — always informative, always warm and engaging.
RIP, Jay, you will be missed!
Christa S. Nuber, former associate editor of The Hearing Review
I took my first class from Jay 25 years ago and he helped to shape my future. He helped me to develop self confidence and to see what I was capable of. I quote him at least weekly! Forever grateful…RIP Jay.
I’ve always considered Jay one of my best friends in the hearing health field, and have presented on hundreds of programs with him.
He was innovative and often thought “outside the box”, and could plainly see and elucidate theoretical frameworks carried into practice so that practitioners could develop greater insights into cause-and-effect in their auditory rehabilitative strategies. We will miss his insights and inspiration, as well as the ability to open our view to a larger context in the hearing health field.
May the Lord bless him and his great family during this difficult time.
the winds of audiology
alive with your wisdom and love
will be guided from your view from above
May the peace of the lord be with you Jay
One of my first audiology text books was published with him as author. Still on my shelf. Thank you, sir.
He was my inspiration for going into the field of audiology! He will be missed.
So sad to hear of his passing. He had more influence on me than anyone. told him that, last time I had the pleasure of listening to his lectures. I attribute most of my success to him.He was the best educator hands down. He will be missed by all RIP Jay
Jay was also a loving and caring friend to all.
Bill. Give me a call with your new life in CO