ADA History

The names of the “Notorious Nine”, who met in Colorado Springs and founded the Academy of Dispensing Audiologists (ADA) [see December 2001 article on 25th ADA convention, page 14] are: John Balko, Norman Carmel, Leo Doerfler, Greg Grau, John Maher, Michael Pollack, Richard Recko, Roy Rowland, and Anthony Tsappis. Chauncey Hewitt and Jim Nunley, owners of Vicon Instrument Company, sponsored the meeting. Steve Walsh, Vicon’s marketing director, was also present, and he was one of the presenters at that first invitational information meeting at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) in 1978. The second conference, which was held at Lake Tahoe, did have only 60 people attending. However, considering that the total membership at that time was 63, we thought it was a good turnout.

At the time of ADA’s founding, the atmosphere in ASHA toward dispensing audiologists was quite oppressive. Several of us had been forced out of dispensing because of the ASHA code of ethics. It would be 7 months before ASHA reluctantly reversed its prohibition on audiologists dispensing hearing aids. Chauncey and Nunley deserve a lot more credit than they have received for helping to jump start the movement that has resulted in the ADA and the AuD.

Roy Rowland, PhD, JD
Former legal counsel for the ADA

The Heart of Testing

I continue to be bothered by the impression given to the public by hearing care professionals regarding the preciseness of the hearing aid fitting process. More specifically, I am bothered by the relationship between information gathering, programming aids, and the final outcome, as it relates to a specific hearing loss. My concerns stem from facts about the actual physics of the sound of the hearing aid and the subjective experience of the patient. Let me make a point that I feel is crucial: altering the sound of a hearing aid is much like tuning a wireless speaker to its receiver. You slowly sweep, going from static to a distorted sound that becomes less distorted as you get closer to a place that is clear, which I call a sweet spot. If you don’t stop exactly at that pinpoint location, or if you miss it by a fraction of a turn, you will have missed the sweet spot for that particular speaker. A hearing aid is not relevant if its relationship with the user’s sweet spot is not in the same equation. When fitting a hearing aid, the only person who knows that sweet spot’s location is that particular listener. No program, chart, or mathematical formula is able to predict when we locate that sweet spot on a particular hearing aid with a particular person. The hearing aid must be able to amplify the sweet spot. However, other limiters distort the sound, such as component distortion, compression, and filters, which makes predicting the subjective quality characteristics of that aid impossible. All of our analyzers are unable to tell us what the subjective quality of sound is. We are fooled into believing that what we see on analyzers relates to the quality of sound. It does not. It is merely a game of smoke and mirrors as it relates to identifying subjective characteristics of the listener and the hearing aid.

The industry has convinced lay people and the public that by using all of our equipment and knowledge, we are able to predict which hearing aid will work for a particular person. This is not true. We are selling hearing aids to people, convinced we can use our charts, formulas, and computer screens to find their sweet spot. Who is being fooled? Are we unaware of the limitations of our tools and synthetic fake sounds?

In my estimation, if a feature on a hearing aid or evaluating tool doesn’t help the lay-person and/or user to identify their sweet spot, then we are not doing justice to our clients. Any lay-person who implies or tells a client that we know what we are doing is either uneducated, a fool, or both.

Our education and technology has run far ahead without realizing the ramifications and profound complexity of sensorineural hearing loss and its effects on those who experience it daily.

Harry Rossman, MS
Black River, Wis