A New Perspective on Audiology

By Robert Castleton Wormus

In 2004, at the age of 62, I retired from a long and wonderful career in audiology. I truly believe it was fate that brought me to this little-known field. I loved every minute of my time spent in audiology. I was able to balance work and play, (albeit with a bit of self-centeredness) and still empty several bucket lists of things I wanted to do, and places I want to go. Audiology in my eyes, was a respected health care profession; but for me it was far more than that, it was a conduit into the mysteries of quantum mechanics as it applies to consciousness.   

Six months into retirement and I began to panic!  Had I retired too soon?  I spent a sleepless night, and then, the very next morning, while having coffee at my clubhouse in Ranch Palos Verdes, I had an epiphany! Staring down at the floor, I realized I wanted to know more about how ‘everything’ is made. Not just everything is made out of material, or discrete atoms that form some 120 odd elements making up the periodic table, but rather atomic structure, nuclear synthesis, and how the quantum world fits into our understanding of not only energy. but the psychophysics of human perception.  I began to realize why an audiologist might feel such an affinity to what is seemingly a very diverse field, modern physics.   

Only another dyed-in-the-wool science buff would understand my excitement when I realized that the mechanics of quantum physics may actually apply more to human perception than to anything else on earth.  The act of human perception, or rather observation, is believed by some quantum physicists to be a quantum mechanical function of existence, and a prerequisite for reality.     

I’m a student of the history of physics having followed the intuitive classical physics of the nineteenth century into it’s inevitable collision with the counter-intuitive modern physics of the twentieth and twenty first century. So – in retirement, why not make modern physics my advocation? At the age of 63, I decided to start a rigorous autodidact education in physics, which led to quantum physics, particle physics and cosmology.

Having an obsessive personality and iron clad will, didn’t hurt.  I began reading everything I could get my hands on about physics and chemistry, and related biological sciences.  I took advantage of local community libraries as well as the libraries of local universities. On one auspicious road trip to Caltech, while roaming the halls, I stumbled upon a lone professor in the basement of the Institute of quantum physics. Although I didn’t know it at the time, he was in the process of retiring, passing his esteemed Richard Feynman professorship in theoretical physics to John Preskill. His name was Kip Thorne. He listened contentedly as I told him my story. “I am a 63-year-old man, who just now, figured out what I want to be when I grow up!” Instead of laughing me out of his office, he began to outline an autodidactic course of study involving online courses (O.C.W.) from Caltech, M.I.T., and Stanford, etc. Included in his suggested curriculum were courses in thermodynamics, solid chemistry, linear algebra, differential calculus, particle physics and cosmology.

 

I loved being an audiologist, but I always felt that our profession had not gained the respect of other sciences, in fact, as an audiologist, I wasn’t sure I was a scientist.

 

It wasn’t until I was well into my O.C.W. program in physics that I began to appreciate how audiology fits into the world-wide view of modern science, perception, and reality. I gained a new respect for audiology. 

A little history into the inception and growing pains of these two seemingly diverse fields will, I believe, demonstrate they share the same basic roots in science. ‘Audiology” (from [[Latin]] {{lang|la|”audīre”}},”; and from [[Ancient Greek|Greek]] {{lang|grc|-λογία}}, ”[[wikt:-logia|-logia]]”) is a doctoral level branch of science that studies hearing, balance, and related disorders. The roots of both Audiology and physics can be traced back to the early 1860s, emerging from a new discipline of psychology, called ‘experimental psychology’ that deals with the physics and psychophysics of human perception and its measurement, as differentiated between the physics of acoustics and the psychoacoustics of sound. The father of this discipline of Psychology is Wilhelm Wundt. 


 Now, for the esoteric branch of physics called Quantum physics. Quantum theory, like audiology, came into existence overnight and immediately went into ‘a 30-year quantum war’, a period of uncertainty and confusion amongst physicists the world over. Experimental physicists, now had to deal with a small group of scientists calling themselves theoretical physicists.  Probability overtook determinism, outing the scientific method under attack. It was a true identity crisis, not dissimilar from the one my field audiology suffered. An extensive search of the period between 1940 and 1960 of the pioneers of these two fields reveals a curious commingling of names and Nobel laureates. 

 

 

Robert Castleton Wormus got his first Master’s Degree in Special Education of the gifted late in 1964.  He enjoyed being a ‘professional student’ for as long as the scholarships and fellowships lasted, which included an AA degree from El Camino, a BA degree in Educational methodology from CSU@LA, a certificate in Astronomy, a minor in experimental psychology, a California teaching credential in Education, Special Education,  Speech Pathology, Audiology, the directorship of the CSU@LA’s Associated Clinics, and finally three California licenses in Audiology, Speech and Language Pathology.

*featured image courtesy flckr

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