Samuel F. Lybarger, one of the 20th Century’s leading hearing instrument engineers and technical experts, died on November 2. He was 91.

Few have been so involved in so many facets of hearing instrument technology and witnessed so much change in the hearing health care field as Lybarger, and several people in the field have suggested that he is the “Grandfather of Hearing Aids.” Today’s hearing instrument specialists and audiologists probably recognize the name Lybarger for the “Half-Gain Fitting Rule,” the prescriptive fitting method that may be viewed as the predecessor of all fitting formulas from the Berger and Libby Methods, to POGO, Cox/MSU, NAL, DSL and FIG6. But his accomplishments go far beyond just the fitting rule.

Lybarger started in the hearing industry in 1929 with E.A. Myers and Sons, designing portable vacuum tube hearing instruments that utilized carbon microphones in place of the Radioear movable coil microphones. He designed one of the first wearable hearing aids, the model B-6 (see photo), which used an advanced (for its time) miniature receiver and earmold, and flashlight batteries for its power source. He continued to design numerous hearing-related devices throughout his career for which he obtained many patents, including an early telephone/hearing aid compatible device, master hearing aid and bone conduction aids. 

Among engineers and industry leaders, Lybarger was known as one of the primary individuals responsible for the establishment of modern electroacoustical standards for hearing aids. He was a member of the technical committee that drafted “A Tentative Code for Measurement of Performance for Hearing Aids” in 1940 (published in JASA) and was the chair of the 1953 American Standards Assn. “Z24.14 Method for Measurement of Characteristics of Hearing Aids”—the forerunner of all the ANSI standards that followed. Lybarger chaired the ANSI Standards Hearing Aid Committee for more than three decades, from its inception to 1983. His involvement also included developing ANSI standards for bone conduction aids, as well as international (IEC) standards.

Though reluctant to do so, Lybarger was asked to become president of the Hearing Aid Industry Conference (HAIC, the predecessor of the Hearing Industries Assn.) during the mid-60’s, and he later said that he never anticipated it would become such a tumultuous period for the field in terms of legislation. He testified with industry leaders, including Ray Rich and John Kojis, at Senate hearings of the Subcommittee on Consumer Interest of the Elderly for HAIC in 1968.

His publications were as numerous and notable as were his achievements. Some examples of his many articles/chapters include those in editions of Jack Katz’s Handbook of Clinical Audiology, Gerald Studebaker’s Acoustical Factors Affecting Hearing Aid Performance, Robert Frusina’s A Bicentennial Monograph on Hearing Impairment Trends in the USA, and Fred Bess & Studebaker’s Vanderbilt Hearing Aid Report. Among many honors, he received the Distinguished Service Award (1978) from ASHA, the Appreciation Award from Hearing Instruments magazine (1984), the Carhart Memorial Lecture Award from AAS (1985) and the Distinguished Service Citation from the Acoustical Soc. of America (1993). 

Lybarger married Alberta E. Myers, the daughter of his boss, E.A. Myers, in 1934. Together, they had one son and four grandchildren.

Editor’s Note: The above information was taken from Marjorie Skafte’s excellent “Living Legends” series which appears in 1994-1995 issues of HR. For more information on the life of Sam Lybarger, see Skafte’s article in the August 1994 HR, pgs. 6-9.


Phonak to acquire Lori/Unitron and Argosy group

Warrenville, IL — The Phonak Group, with U.S. headquarters near Chicago and world headquarters in Stafa, Switzerland, has signed an agreement to acquire Canadian-based Unitron Industries Ltd. In mid-1999, Unitron and Lori Medical Laboratories, Minneapolis, merged to form Lori/Unitron, and then merged with Argosy Electronics, Eden Prairie, MN, in the spring of this year. The group reportedly accounted for over 220,000 hearing instruments in 1999/00 fiscal year and is said to be the seventh largest hearing instrument manufacturer in the world, while Phonak is reportedly the fifth largest.

The acquisition will expand Phonak’s role as a major player in North America, according to the company. The four brands of the combined Phonak Group is anticipated to grow beyond a 15% share (300,000 units) of the U.S. market and 20% share (40,000 units) in Canada. Phonak reports that the Lori and Argosy brands will strengthen the Group’s position in the ITE market, while complementing Unitron and Phonak brands that are strong in the global BTE market.

The industry vision and business objectives, as well as management philosophies of the companies are very similar, according to Phonak: “Today’s post-pioneer management of Phonak and Unitron recognizes the high value of motivated people and practices a quality and customer-oriented company culture,” said a statement from Phonak. 

The senior management teams of Unitron, Argosy and Lori will reportedly remain with their respective operations. Michael Jones, Phonak’s North American president, will act as head of a new combined North American management team that includes Unitron’s Gary Ullman and Paul Thompson, and Christian Berg, Phonak’s director of research and development.

GN ReSound announces corporate consolidation moves

Carsten Trads

Jesper Mailind
Redwood City, CA – Beginning January 1, GN ReSound Group senior corporate executives plan to further consolidate and adjust the company’s global structure and business presence.

With the purchase of ReSound, Beltone and Philips in the last 18 months, the GN ReSound Group now has in its possession four of the world’s nine largest hearing instrument companies, reportedly creating the second largest hearing instrument manufacturing group in the industry. GN ReSound says that these acquisitions and new scales of economy have yielded improvements in turn-time, product quality and customer support in key business areas, but the expansion has also brought “the opportunity to explore vital operational and organizational efficiencies that would allow the company to better utilize its extensive resources in meeting the needs of both its customers and the hearing care market.” 

Consolidation plans announced for the Group include:

  • The long-term goal of the corporation to establish two major global hearing instrument brands, accomplished by merging the former ReSound and Danavox brands into one GN ReSound brand, and merging the former Philips brand into the Beltone brand. 
  • Consolidation of key inside sales and technical support functions from Redwood City, CA, to GN ReSound North America operations in Minneapolis under the supervision of President Carsten Trads. There were no announced changes regarding manufacturing and customer service facilities in Redwood City, Chicago and Minneapolis. 
  • Beltone U.S. operations in Chicago will continue to be run by President Mike Skiera and Beltone-Canada will continue to be run by Jan Metzdorff. Mike Cannizzaro, Beltone’s current worldwide president and CEO, will transition into a consulting role for the company starting Jan. 1.
  • GN ReSound Group’s worldwide headquarters, currently in Redwood City, CA, will move to Copenhagen, Denmark, where the parent company, GN Great Nordic, is located. The operation will continue to be run under the direction of President Jesper Mailind. 
  • The GN ReSound Group’s executive management team responsible for the GN ReSound, Beltone and Viennatone businesses will be led by Mailind, and an executive vice-president & group president for North America who will be recruited to work out of that Group’s North American headquarters located in Chicago. GN ReSound and Beltone will continue to separately serve the North American market.
  • Product development units and product applications will be established separately for the GN ReSound and Beltone brands to meet their own distinct, market-driven needs. 
  • Research & Core Technology will continue to take advantage of resources located in various parts of the world, and will be responsible for the R&D of core chip technology that will be used as the basis for future products developed under each corporate brand. This area will be managed out of the company’s Copenhagen worldwide headquarters. Audiological Research, including test system design and clinical research coordination, will be handled out of Redwood City. 

Once implemented, GN ReSound Group and regional executives believe that these consolidation moves will lead to increased economies of scale and improvements in quality and service support for both the GN ReSound and Beltone offerings. They report that customers of both companies will see these benefits reflected in their experiences, and will be able to pass these improvements on to their hearing impaired patients.

William Demant concludes agreement with AVADA

Copenhagen, Denmark — William Demant Holding A/S, the parent company of Oticon and Bernafon, has announced a joint venture and OEM-agreement with AVADA Audiology and Hearing Care Centers, a group of independent hearing care offices in 12 states. AVADA, which had revenues of $36 million in 1999, is reportedly comprised of 16 hearing health care business owners who employ a total of 390 people in 163 clinics. 

The agreement was finalized through a newly established joint venture company in which William Demant is a minority shareholder, and the parties have infused into the 163 clinics liquid capital in the amount of $10-13 million for the purchase of additional clinics. Through the recently concluded OEM agreement, these clinics will sell mainly products from William Demant companies.

While the two groups share the same philosophy of providing quality care to hearing-impaired consumers, as the minority partner, William Demant will have little or no direct involvement in the dispensing group’s daily operations and will basically operate at “arm’s length” from the group, according to a company spokesperson. “Essentially, this is a situation in which a group of experienced and established hearing care business owners with previous involvement in single-line dispensing came to us seeking a primary supplier of quality products and financing,” said the company representative. “They are an experienced group with distinct ideas of their own, and they’ve been successfully implementing these ideas for many years in terms of operating their own businesses, conducting marketing and performing dispensing activities. They’ve been there before, and the clear intention is that they will continue on as a distinctly independent operating entity.”

William Demant Holding reports that it will invest a total of $53.8 million to obtain the exclusive OEM agreement and 47% ownership of the joint-venture company. The investment has reportedly been financed through a total cash amount of $37 million and the issuance of new shares.

Central Institute for the Deaf receives $20K grant

St. Louis — The Central Institute for the Deaf (CID) has been awarded a $20,000 grant from the Deafness Research Foundation (DRF), according to Nancy Tye Murray, PhD, CID’s director of research. 

The grant will be used for laboratory equipment and supplies to further study the relationship of surviving spiral ganglion cells which are partly responsible for carrying auditory information to the brain and the degree of success of cochlear implants. “It is hypothesized that these cells are dependent on neurotrophic factors released by the organ of Corti,” says Kenneth H. Lee, PhD, a post-doctoral research scientist at CID who is collaborating on the study with Assistant Research Scientist Mark E. Warchol, PhD. “Unfortunately, many patients who are candidates for cochlear implants have damage in the organ of Corti and have lost the cells providing these factors for the survival of the spiral ganglion cells. It is our goal to determine whether cochlear implant candidates may be able to receive significant recovery of hearing function through early identification and therapeutic administration.”

The DRF, headquartered in New York City, is a voluntary health organization committed to curing and preventing all forms of hearing loss and making lifelong hearing health care a national priority. It has awarded over $19 million in research grants over the past 40 years, according to the organization, and has most recently launched its National Campaign for Hearing Health which includes the May Babies campaign (see HR Sept. News, p. 10).

CMU/Vanderbilt graduates its first four AuD students

Mt. Pleasant, MI — Striving to juggle school, work and family while earning an advanced degree hasn’t been easy, but for four Central Michigan University/Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center (CMU/VBWC) AuD students, there is great satisfaction and an early Christmas present ahead. Graduating this month from the CMU/VBWC online doctorate of audiology program are Kim Barry, an audiologist from Georgia; Gyl Kasewurm, a private practitioner in Michigan; Melanie Herzfeld, an audiologist from Long Island, and Lisa Hoover-Steinwart, a private practitioner from the Chicago area.

“We are very pleased to see our first AuD distance-learning students complete the program,” says Dan F. Konkle, PhD, CMU/VBWC audiology program director. “These students exemplify the commitment and dedication it takes not only to make our program work so well, but also to enhance further the profession of audiology.”

While the program was designed to accommodate the lives of busy students/practitioners, it was also planned to provide them with a strong academic base. “I was definitely pleased with the program,” said Hoover-Steinwart. “CMU has a very strict academic program with a very good reputation. I did not want it to be easy. This degree is very meaningful.” 

For many of the program’s participants, it was the ability to take classes through distance learning that enabled them to fit the course work into already full schedules. “When I started the AuD program,” says Barry, “it had been 20 years since my last college experience. I was concerned about having the time to study, since I work full-time during the day and serve as chauffeur to my two sons in the evenings and on weekends. Distance learning gave me the freedom to study when I could work it into my schedule.”

“I thought I had kept up with advances in audiology,” says Kasewurm, “but I found there were many advances that had been made that I was not aware of. The program made me a much better practitioner.”

All four graduates commented that the camaraderie among students was an unexpected element of the program. They say that it was fun to see each other’s progress both in audiological know-how and in understanding the in’s-and-outs of chat-rooms and the online curriculum.

Do they have any advice for future students? “I would make every effort to attend conventions to meet fellow students,” says Hoover-Steinwart. “I would also call professors if you have questions. Sometimes it helps to be able to put a voice with a name.”

Konkle says that the strength of the CMU/VBWC program lies in the faculty which includes Linda Hood, Gus Mueller, Fred Bess, Anne Marie Tharpe, Patti McCarthy, Gene Bratt, Kris English, Bob Keith, Steve Sinclair, Todd Ricketts, Nancy Vause, Dick Danielson, Cheryl DeConde Johnson, Dawn Nelson and Faith Aiken.

A unique aspect of CMU’s program is its capstone experience, a 12-credit-hour requirement in which the student customizes their degree to meet specific professional needs and foster an appreciation for evidence-based practice. While many of the graduates say this is a requirement they at first did not look forward to, all four reported that it was rewarding. “I think students need to know the capstone project was not the dastardly project people thought it would be,” says Herzfeld. “I would recommend it to everyone.” Barry commented that, while the capstone was time consuming, she could not imagine completing the doctoral program without it or something like it.

More information on the CMU/Bill Wilkerson program can be obtained by contacting CMU/VBWC or emailing: [email protected] 

AuD standards and accreditation meeting held

San Diego — A meeting of several major audiology organizations determined that the Audiology Foundation of America (AFA) should fund a consultant to form an independent accreditation group for AuD programs and that the groups should continue to work together toward the further establishment of the AuD.

Representatives of the Academy of Dispensing Audiologists (ADA), American Academy of Audiology (AAA), Organization of AuD Program Directors (OAPD), National Association of Future Doctors of Audiology (NAFDA), and Audiology Foundation of America (AFA) met during the annual ADA meeting in San Diego, and the groups agreed to work jointly on several related issues pertaining to accreditation. A representative of each AuD program will also be invited to participate in these discussions. “This falls right in line with the AFA’s mission to promote the transition of the profession to the AuD,” says AFA Chair Kenneth L. Lowder, AuD. “We are more than happy to work together with our colleagues and provide the resources to make this possible.”

Pediatric Conference Proceedings available

Warrenville, IL — The Proceedings of the 1st International Conference, A Sound Foundation Through Early Amplification, sponsored by Phonak in October 1998 are now available. The conference (reported on in the Jan. ‘99 HR, pgs. 38-42) offered insights into the amplification and use of residual hearing for infants and young children. The Proceedings include 24 chapters written by a team of international audiological experts. 

“The conference was heavily over-booked, as interest in this key subject was far greater than we had imagined,” says Ora Buerkli-Halevy, Phonak’s international coordinator. “That is why we have published the proceedings, which will provide access to this important and timely information for those who were unable to attend the conference.”

The book is edited by Richard Seewald, PhD, of the Univ. of Western Ontario, who was the conference’s steering-committee chair. Chapter authors include John Bamford, Arthur Boothroyd, Fred Bess, Judith Gravel, Adrian Davis, Harvey Dillon and Patricia Stelmachowicz, among many others. Copies of the book are available by calling Phonak Customer Service or Inside Sales at (800) 777-7333. 

The Second International Pediatric Conference will be held in Chicago, November 8-10, 2001.