Just in time for AudiologyNow: OtoGeeks!

Art by Christopher Frink

So, here I am in Boston waiting for the 24th Annual AudiologyNow, doing my work sabbatical and catching up on old projects.  I discussed this concept a few weeks ago, a practice I started several years ago in order to actually complete the goals which never seems to happen when I’m in my office.  For me, this is a vacation by comparison to the day-to-day grind of seeing patients and working with employees.

For me, audiology is not a job, not a career.  It is a passion.

For many years I had been out of shape, but a few years ago committed to becoming more physically fit.  One benefit of doing so has been that I have been able to kill reading material left and right:  I read when I’m on the treadmill, anywhere from 30 to 120 minutes per day (plus an extra 20 minutes in the sauna afterwards).  This is where I catch up on industry journals, fiction, and business guides like The E-Myth Revisited, Guerilla Marketing, and World War Z (the last soon to be a movie starring Brad Pitt).  One I recently finished was American Nerd:  The Story of My People, by Ben Nugent.

In it, the author recounts the history of nerds, the various subsets, and incorporates an autobiographical aspect as well with his childhood.  He is able to fully define what it means to be a nerd.  He considers the stereotypical nerd from such movies like Revenge of the Nerds to be incorrect, and rather defines a nerd as either (1) someone who is intellectual in ways that strike people as machinelike, obsessive in their pursuits, and socially awkward, or (2) someone who meets the first definition but has developed a within a culture of “nerddom” to such a degree that the question of social awkwardness no longer applies; at that point, the nerd has his own social group, so acceptance by others is no longer a concern.

For a few years now, I have been using a term that I feel embodies exactly what the author of Nerd means, but for my own people:  OtoGeeks.  Using Nugent’s method of analysis, an OtoGeek is anyone who thrives on anything related to the ear.  In our field, we often use quick, 10-question screening methods to determine if someone has a hearing loss.  Well, below is my method for evaluating whether you, too, may be an OtoGeek:

  1. When wandering around in public locations, like Logan Airport, do you find yourself noticing hearing aids on ears and trying to determine what model they are wearing?
  2. Does your head turn whenever you hear the term “hearing?”  (If so, avoid courthouses and politics)
  3. Do you feel the immediate gratification when a patient wears a hearing aid for the first time or a cochlear implant is activated?
  4. Do you take some form of sick satisfaction in using the Stenger Test to catch a malingerer?
  5. When new software from a manufacturer arrives, do you get it opened and installed faster than a teenage boy with the latest version of Halo?
  6. Do you enthusiastically discuss how great your profession is with others who, prior to meeting you, had no clue what an audiologist was?
  7. And when they do know what you do, are you a bit tired of the “what?” joke that they think is so funny?
  8. When the latest Journal or Review arrives, do you find yourself ripping open the plastic wrap it came in, eager to learn some new Nuts and Bolts or find out just what the Final Word is?
  9. The smell of earwax is not nearly as offensive as when you first started working in the profession.
  10. Every Wednesday, do you stay up late at night reading all the new blogs once the new postings go up on HearingHealthmatters.org? (please say yes!)

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, then you too may be an OtoGeek.  I’ve shared this term with a few colleagues, but now feel the time is right, with my new platform here at HearingHealthMatters.org, to spread the term in a viral manner.  And there is no better place than AudiologyNow! Last year’s convention saw nearly 8,000 in attendance, and hopefully we’ll set a new record this year.

To help promote the term and serve a worthy cause, I’ll have t-shirts available for any who are interested, with proceeds from their sales going to support Healing the Children, an audiology mission to help the hearing impaired in Guatemala and other countries.  If you’re interested, please contact me via email and I’ll make it so (as well as personally model them while I’m there).


  1. Josh, you were one of the inspirations for this post. Greg is a cose 2nd. If you’ll wear them and AAA, you both get free shirts!

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