Moe Bergman, pioneering audiologist and director of the first VA clinic, dies

HERZLIYA, ISRAEL—Moe Bergman, EdD, one of the last remaining founders of audiology, died on February 20 in Herzliya, Israel. He was 97.

Dr. Bergman, a native New Yorker who moved to Israel with his wife, Hannah, in 1975, became involved in audiology in the 1930s, long before the term “audiology” was even used. In the 1940s, Bergman, along with Raymond Carhart (often called the “father of audiology”), Ira Hirsch, and other scientists who went on to become distinguished audiologists, were put in charge of organizing aural rehabilitation services in U.S. military hospitals during World War II.  It was during this period that audiology became a recognized profession.

In a 2009 interview with Doug Beck, AuD, for the American Academy of Audiology web site, Bergman said that after joining the army in 1943, “I sought out a position working with soldiers with hearing impairment to allow me to use my skills and knowledge related to aural rehab.” He was assigned to a clinic in Santa Barbara, CA, where he recalled, “We selected new equipment and rack-mounted it to perform tests of hearing, hearing aid ‘fittings,’ etc. My program was called the Aural Rehabilitation Unit of the Department of Ear, Nose, and Throat. I arrived as they were starting the program and I stayed there until 1946, when they closed the unit after Hiroshima.”

Upon returning to civilian life, Bergman went back to New York, where in 1946 he set up the first Veterans Administration Audiology Clinic in the country. He recounted to Beck, “I designed that clinic with my wife. We had to cut and paste pieces of paper representing test rooms, therapy rooms, etc., and that became the first of the VA centers in audiology.”

He served as chief audiologist at the VA until 1953, while also working on his doctorate from Columbia University, which he received in 1949.

From the VA, Bergman moved into academia for the rest of his long career. He directed the speech and hearing program at Hunter College, which was part of City University of New York, and was then elected the first executive officer of the PhD program in speech and hearing sciences at the Graduate School of City University of New York (CUNY).

 

A LEADING FIGURE IN ISRAELI AUDIOLOGY

Upon retiring from CUNY in 1975, he accepted a comparable position in the Sackler School of Medicine in Tel Aviv. There, he helped establish the university’s undergraduate program for teachers of the deaf and co-founded the Israeli Society for Auditory Research.

When Bergman immigrated to Israel, he was already a leading figure there in audiology. In 1953, he accepted an invitation from Israeli otolaryngologists he had met that year in Stockholm to visit Tel-Hashomer Hospital. He helped start an audiology clinic there, and in later years started clinics at other hospitals in Israel, including Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. In 1967, he headed up the group designing the curriculum for the Department of Communication Disorders at Tel Aviv University.

 

SCHOLAR, TEACHER, AND MENTOR

During more than a half century in academia, Bergman became one of audiology’s best-known scholars, teachers, and mentors.

He published his first article in 1950, and went on to publish many more, including groundbreaking studies on tinnitus. His 1962 study of a tribe in the Sudan became well known beyond audiology. He and his colleagues reported that the Mabaan people living in the silence of the desert of southeast Sudan had superior hearing from ages 10 to 70 than people of comparable age who lived in noisier, industrial areas of the United States.

Bergman was one of the first to postulate that reduced speech understanding with advancing age was related to changes in the central nervous system. In 1980, he published a seminal text on the subject, Aging and the Perception of Speech.

In 2002 Bergman wrote, “The Origins of Audiology: American Wartime Military Audiology,” an article for Audiology Today that the blog Hearing International calls “probably the best historical discussion of the development of Audiology during the World War II period.”

 

OFTEN HONORED

Dr. Bergman’s long and productive career won him much acclaim. In 1994, the American Auditory Society presented him with its highest honor, the Raymond Carhart Memorial Award, to Bergman.

He was selected to give the keynote address at the National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research’s 2005 Conference on The Aging Auditory System in Portland, OR.

The International Society of Audiology (ISA) honored him with the Aram Glorig Award. A tribute published in ISA’s newsletter in 2012 said, “Professor Moe Bergman was, and (in his 90s) continues to be the mentor for thousands of students and professionals. His lifelong devotion to excellence in our profession as a visionary, founder, teacher, researcher, and statesman benefits all of us.”

Dr. Bergman is survived by his wife of 75 years, Hannah Goodelman Bergman, of Herzliya; a son, Jay, of Newington, CT; and a grandson, Aaron, of New York City. Donations in his memory can be made to the Department of Communication Disorders, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Israel.

 

FOR MORE ON MOE BERGMAN AND HIS LEGACY, VISIT BOB TRAYNOR’S BLOG, HEARING INTERNATIONAL

2 Comments

  1. My deepest condolences to Hannah and Jay. I knew the Bergmans as they were dear friends of my parents, Eda and Walter Millard z”l, my aunt and uncle Tsip and Irv Wagner z”l, and my grandparents, Jennie and Isaac Mershon z”l. Moe was a warm and wonderful person who will be remembered with love by many friends. ד״ש חמ לחנה
    May his memory be for a blessing, may you be comforted among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem,
    Wendy (Millard) Rotella

  2. Dear Mr. Kirkwood (David):

    Thank you so much for your very flattering tribute to my father, who I know would have enjoyed reading it as much as I did.

    With best wishes,

    Jay (Bergman)

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