Bob Sandlin, the popular founder of the International Hearing Aid Seminars, dies

David Kirkwood
May 9, 2012

The following obituary for Robert Sandlin, PhD, is derived in large part from The Hearing Review, and appears here with the kind permission of that publication. For further tributes to Dr. Sandlin, see this week’s post at Wayne’s World, and look for an upcoming post at Hearing Views.


Bob Sandlin

Robert E. Sandlin, PhD, one of audiology’s best known and most beloved figures, died peacefully, in the presence of family and friends, on May 3 in San Diego, where he spent most of his nearly 86 years.

Dr. Sandlin, a distinguished researcher, author, clinician, and educator, was perhaps most renowned for the annual International Hearing Aid Seminar that he founded and ran for more than 20 years. He was also known throughout the audiology world for his articles, books, and lectures on a broad range of topics, including amplification and tinnitus.

Bob Sandlin was born on June 17, 1926, the son of a barber, and moved to San Diego as a child.

He enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II, where he piloted landing craft. After the war ended, he enrolled at San Diego State University and graduated in 1950.

He left California for Detroit to study audiology at Wayne State University. After receiving his MA, he became the second person to earn a PhD in the field from Wayne State, in 1961.

He went on to become a research audiologist at the San Francisco Hearing and Speech Center. He also helped found the audiology program at Arizona State University.

In 1970, Dr. Sandlin became associate director of the Speech, Hearing and Neurosensory Center at Children’s Hospital in San Diego. During his eight years there, he played an important role in the early work with auditory brainstem response (ABR) and evoked potentials.

It was also in 1970 that he organized the first International Hearing Aid Seminar. His goal was to bring audiologists and hearing aid dispensers together to learn from each other. The first meeting was such a success that he continued to hold it annually for 21 years.

He, along with his colleague Donald Krebs, PhD, also held meetings focusing on evoked potentials.

He also started and eventually sold a private practice in San Diego, and taught for many years at San Diego State University. He was a prominent industry consultant, and served on the scientific advisory board of the American Tinnitus Association (ATA) for close to 20 years.

Dr. Sandlin was a prolific writer, who continued to contribute many articles to Hearing Review during the 1990s and into the early-2000s.

His two-volume Textbook of Hearing Aid Amplification (Singular/Thomson Learning), which was originally published in 1988, remains popular in the United States and abroad. The work benefited from his ability to recruit some of the world’s leading experts on hearing aids and their dispensing to contribute, including Samuel Lybarger, Mead Killion, Wayne Staab, William McFarland, Michael Valente, and Ted Venema.

Bob Sandlin and his wife, Joann, who survives him, had countless friends among audiologists and hearing instrument specialists. That was reflected when in June 2006 nearly 200 of them turned out for an 80th birthday party in San Diego to “roast” him in a celebration of his life and career.  However, that proved difficult for, as Mike Metz, the master of the roast, pointed out, “It’s difficult to say anything derogatory about Bob, since he’s one of the gentlest, most respected people in the field of audiology.”

Leave a Reply