The Giants of Audiology: Interview with Jerry Northern, Ph.D.

jerry northern audiology interview
October 31, 2022
The Giants of Audiology is a new segment where host Bob Traynor will be joined by some of the profession’s most influential figures. In this week’s episode, we are joined by Dr. Jerry Northern.
Dr. Northern is a Founding Member of the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) and served the organization’s third President. His professional activities have included clinical practice, teaching, medical-legal consultation, research activities, as well as extensive writing and lecturing. A prolific author, he has written, edited and co-authored more than a dozen textbooks including several reprinted in multiple editions and translated into foreign language editions. 
His textbooks are widely used in colleges and universities and include Hearing in Children (6th Edition, 2014), Hearing Disorders (3rd Edition, 1996), Probe Microphone Measurements: Hearing Aid Selection and Assessment (1992), and Infants and Hearing (1996). He has written more than 35 chapters in other textbooks and authored more than 65 scientific journal articles. Dr. Northern created Seminars in Hearing and served as editor-in-chief from 1975-2000.
He is known nationally and internationally for his efforts on behalf of children with hearing loss.

Full Episode Transcript

Bob Traynor 0:14
Welcome to This Week in Hearing, and our featured series Giants in Audiology, a series that introduces those that need no introduction. Today my guest is Dr. Jerry Northern and Dr. Northern’s. Humble bio reads: Jerry northern is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver, Colorado. He’s president of the Colorado Hearing Foundation, and serves on the board of directors of the Marion Downs Center in Denver, Colorado. Dr. Northern retired from the faculty at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in 1996. After 26 years at the hospital as professor of Otolaryngology and director of audiology Clinical Services. Dr. Northern is an – a major teacher to all of us, has done numerous consulting with various manufacturers. Also, he was an inspiration to those of us that were whose students at one time or another because we all wanted to do what Dr. Northern was doing. Further, he has actually been an ambassador for Audiology all around the world. Welcome to This Week in Hearing Jerry.

Jerry Northern 1:39
Well, thanks Bob. Nice, nice to be here. And I’m not sure I should be included among the giants of audiology, I’m only 5 foot 10. And in my older years, I seem to be shrinking a little bit every every year.

Bob Traynor 1:53
But those of us that that came up in Colorado stood on people’s shoulders and yours. And of course, we didn’t want to stand on Marion’s shoulders too much, because that would that would that would not have been polite. But so I the first thing we have to talk about is that there was you’ve had a wide practice within the field a wide scope of consultancies, and saw the profession go from body aids actually probably no aids, all the way through cochlear implants. And I still remember as a student that the medical school a study called Y cord versus binaural hearing that was presented at the International Hearing Aid Seminar. And with Marion Downs, and yourself and Sam Lybarger. It was the idea that I didn’t really do too much. But I got to be on a paper. And how cool was that? So if I say my understanding is you, you’ve done this Ambassadorship to 30 or more countries.

Jerry Northern 3:04
Well, thanks. I’ve been lucky guy. I think I’ve been around during the Golden Age of audiology. So I just had so many opportunities and count myself Luckily in the right places at the right time. And it’s been just a just a fabulous career for me. And I’m delighted for any contributions that I’ve made to to the success or the progress of Audiology. It’s been my pleasure all the way through.

Bob Traynor 3:31
So you have kind of a unique connection to hearing impairment and deafness- and those kinds of things. And I know that the group would be interested in hearing about those.

Jerry Northern 3:43
Well, yeah, it is pretty unique. I certainly never in college had any interest in speech and hearing. In fact, my I went to Colorado College and I was an experimental psychology major I, I wanted nothing really to do with hearing and speech, it meant nothing to me, except that my parents were divorced. When I was very young, two years of age, I was sent to live with my grandparents with my older brother. And they were profoundly deaf and both profoundly deaf graduates of Gallaudet College in the early 1900s. So we found ourselves as little boys living in a house with with grandparents who were totally stone deaf, and we have no means or ways of communicating with them. So we had to learn sign language rather quickly. So that means I learned sign language at the age of two. So it’s always been like a second language for me. My grandparents had had two children, my father and my aunt, both normal hearing because my grandparents lost their hearing through spinal meningitis, which used to go through the country like like this is a giant epidemic, leaving lots of people with profound hearing loss, but because they were ambitiously definitely didn’t really pass on in my family. Their daughter, my aunt normal hearing went to Gallaudet, she became a Teacher of the Deaf and taught for 40 years in Kansas, California and around. Then I came along, I went to, actually, I have a degree in a Master’s degree from Gallaudet and my daughter, Amy became a Teacher of the Deaf. And believe it or not, my granddaughter was a teacher’s aide over in the School for the Deaf in Seattle, so interesting, we’ve had five generations of our family involved in deafness in one way or another.

Bob Traynor 5:33
Well, you have to compliment the, the grandparents there for taking you and your brother in, as you say, as wild grandsons. Within this, this particular situation, and I guess that you had a VA Traineeship in Denver that kind of led to the PhD and the Army and a number of

Jerry Northern 5:57
actually, actually, when I was at Gallaudet, I had to take a course in hearing, you know, hearing and deafness or something were in the Hearing Speech Center, that was my first introduction to audiology, and I had two great mentors that were on the faculty of the program. And I’d go down and watch them do audiology with the Deaf students at Gallaudet. And I found that fascinating, in fact, it was really sensory psychology with a clinical application. So I thought it really felt it fit my, my educational college background in psychology. And my background with with deafness in my grandparents, so wasn’t very long for me, even for me, but that the other and say, Wow, that that could be a great opportunity here for a career for me. So that that started my route to audiology. And subsequent to that I quickly got a VA Traineeship in Denver in audiology. So that brought me back to Denver for a few years while I worked on my PhD. Thank you very much to the VA. That was that was terrific. And I got the grand stipend of about $4,000 a year.

Bob Traynor 7:05
Yeah, that’s kind of what degrees cost at that time. Now, they cost only slightly more than that, of course. Now, were you the first army audiologist?

Jerry Northern 7:20
Well, no, actually, I was the second, I wanted to be the first. Somehow a speech pathologist snuck in ahead of me and I don’t know where he ever went. I never met him and he disappeared somewhere along the way. I was. I was commissioned in the army in the armor, so I was a small unit commander for tanks. My commission, I kept getting deferments. This was during the Vietnam years, kept getting deferments to go to graduate school. There was no specialty in the army for audiology at that point. Then suddenly, just as I finished my PhD, the army was bringing back enough hearing impaired, active soldiers from Vietnam. They really needed an audiology program. And so they, at that point, set up a specialty MOS specialty assignment for audiologists, I have an ENT friend who was in the military at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital. In Denver, he called me and said, Jerry, now’s the time. If you want to switch branches, you could get into the Medical Service Corps as an audiologist so you could bet how fast I wanted to get out of tanks and armor into audiology. And so I was able to apply almost right away. And yet whether or not. I was still the second guy, not the first.

Bob Traynor 8:41
Bummer. Well, I understand that, that- at least I heard this story – now I don’t know for you can you can validate it or invalidate it however you choose. But I understand there was some hearing screening that went on in Vietnam and and actually heard someplace but other than you and Marion were doing hearing screening in Vietnam and almost got blown up in a Jeep. Well,

Jerry Northern 9:06
what happened there was after my military time, and I came back to the University of Colorado in 1970-1971, the University of Colorado medical school got a grant from the State Department to send specialty departments over to Vietnam, and work in their medical school and big hospital over there as well to help improve their medical their medical applications with Vietnamese patients. And so our School University of Colorado School of Medicine, the Department of Otolaryngology and Audiology was identified as a leader and so several of our faculty people went to Vietnam during those years. I think I went in 1972 to teach and work in the hospital. The, the story about the explosion was really a Marion Downs story. Okay. Yeah, she really was there on a year, a year ahead of me. She happened to be traveling in an open Jeep, the Minister of Education picked her up one morning to take her to the hospital. And on his way to pick her up, a terrorist threw a bomb into his Jeep and destroyed him. And all the audiometric equipment that was in the back of the Jeep. But Marion had not been picked up yet for a. So it was a near near miss. Wow.

Bob Traynor 10:27
Well, I also understand you’re the you’re the founder, one of the founders, of the military audiology and speech pathology society.

Jerry Northern 10:39
Another funny little story. I was at Walter Reed Army Medical Center at that time, I was on active duty. As a captain, I was the assistant director there of the army Speech and Hearing Center. And we I applied for funds to attend an ASHA convention. And I got an answer back, this would have been a 1969 an answer back from the Surgeon General that they were not funding people to go to conventions. After all, we were in a Vietnam War. That was really just not a priority. I got a phone call from a PhD friend of mine who was an audiologist in the Air Force, Dr. Jim Endicott, and he had just, it happened to him as well. I thought that over and so working with him, we established the military audiology and speech pathology society. And we justified that would be, we reapplied for funds to go to the ASHA convention, because now we had an organization that needed to meet and we needed to meet face to face so that we could standardize audiology protocols with all three services, Army Air Force, and Navy. I don’t think there was a Navy person at that time. But nonetheless, all of a sudden, we got funding approval that sounded like a good project to the military. And so we got to go to convention. By that we had half a dozen audiologists, we met together one evening at a dinner. We even had a talk and Ray Carhart was our speaker, due to the first military audiology and speech pathology, and that’s how that all got started. It was sort of a boondoggle. I really have to admit. I’m proud to say that organization has lasted all these years, took a few years for the audience, the audiologist and the speech pathologist to split away. We needed the numbers on those earlier years. So we were military audiology and speech pathology, but each group went their own way. The military audiology group has survived all these years, they are now called the Military Audiology Association. But boy, a huge number of audiologists over the years have gone through that organization. They now hold their own conventions. They’re very successful group. And they are a valuable audiology organization.

Bob Traynor 12:57
And I certainly remember that in my bio reserve career as a military audiologist, where where we had army short courses, and we had military audiology association meetings, it from what you started, it turned it into a fabulous educational experience for military colleagues. Now, one of the other questions I have for you, were you the guy behind the military monograph issue of Audiology Today?

Jerry Northern 13:28
Yes, of course. So during that part of my life, I was the editor and publisher of Audiology Today, those were in the early years of the American Academy of Audiology. So we put in Audiology Today, six times a year. But that wasn’t enough, I wanted to have some special issues. And so along the way, usually once at least once each year, while I was editor, I would pick a special issue devoted to that topic. Well, I had a very good friend in Moe Bergman, who was one of the very earliest audiologists, and he had had a real good had a career in working, I think, at one of the military hospitals after the Second World War, so he had been one of the really first audiologists and he around, he’d been very interested in military audiology, talking with him. I believe over dinner one time, I just realized he was a mountain of information about that, and invited him to do a special issue on military audiology, which he did. While he was teaching in Jerusalem. I think he was really well into his 70s. But turned out to be quite a nice history of the growth of audiology before we even had audiology.

Bob Traynor 14:44
I think that’s probably one of the best historical orientations to the field. That that is one I’ve ever seen. And now Now here’s a mystery that I’ve always wondered about. There’s a picture of a soldier in the sound room in front of a great big dynamic microphone now, and there’s another dude back behind the scenes there. Are you either one of those guys?

Jerry Northern 15:14
No, no, those are both before my time. And those are pictures I found while I was at Walter Reed of the post world war II hearing testing evaluations, I had maybe a dozen of them. And I just used I turn those over to Moe Bergman. And we included all of those in that special edition of military audiology that came out of the Audiology Today magazine.

Bob Traynor 15:36
Well, that’s another myth that has been busted then. Now. Now, you came to the University of Colorado Medical Center in the mid 1990s. And

Jerry Northern 15:50
I came in 1970

Bob Traynor 15:52
1970. Okay. And then I met a fabulous lady by the name of Marion Downs

Jerry Northern 16:00
Well, I actually knew Marion before that. So when I was had my VA Trainee, the VA hospital was right next to the Medical Center in Denver in those days, and met Marion got along nicely with her and as a student, she would hire me to come over and cover her clinics, while she did international travel or while she was on vacation, or whatever, in a very busy outpatient clinic in audiology. She was the only audiologist on the staff at that time. And she would hire me at the grand paycheck of $5 an hour and cover this clinic. And so in a half day, I would see, we’d see 40 people just one after another after another after another, to feed nine otolaryngologists as I recall. So I met her when I was at when I was on active duty at Walter Reed, I got a call from her that they had an opening in the department and that their audiologist who filled that position Gary McCandless had just accepted a position over in Salt Lake City and was leaving. And would I be interested in coming back to Colorado after my military career? So I kind of thought about that. I did think the trip to Colorado, I did interview with everybody on the department, I had some really good research projects going on in one read one in aural rehab, especially programmed educational things in aurral rehab. And I said to Marion, you know, thank you very much for the offer. But I’ve just got a little more I need to finish up here. And she said, how long would it take? I think another year and she said, that’s fine. We’ll just hold the position open for you until you’re ready. Well, I didn’t think that really happened. But lo and behold, they did hold that position. I finished my research in 1970. And, by golly, they offered me a job, I did have to take a paycheck. Got to go back to Colorado. So I went down from, went up to $16,000, I think was my annual first paycheck, pay rate at the university. So I used to say on the billboards around the state of Colorado, it’s a pleasure to live in Colorado, meaning don’t worry about not making much money because you’re having a good time in the mountains.

Bob Traynor 18:12
Well, the chairs of the departments all when you asked for a raise, they always went over to the window, and opened up the blinds, and said here is about 25-30% of your salary. So So I know that one relatively well. But you and Marion went on to do lots of publishing lots of speaking lots of and, and and we all remember the High Risk Register. And the High Risk Register turned into that, that kind of a bank drop bag of all kinds of different noisemakers and all these different things, and as well as six editions of a textbook called hearing in children, and now published, I think even in three languages around the world, and, and so on. So

Jerry Northern 19:04
that’s, uh, you know, we can we can spend this whole this whole interview time talking about Marion Downs and that still wouldn’t cover this grand lady. She was a, she was the most colorful, masterful best of balances that probably ever lived and it would be hard to ever replace her but so turned out, when I was hired, I had a PhD and she had a master’s degree at that point. So the university structure was such that I had to come in as the head of the department with my PhD, but there was no doubt working with her. I was a trainee and spent my career frankly, riding on her coattails. She was just a beauty. The best part of it was that we just met and matched and work together in a marvelous way. We never had a cross word between the two of us. We both worked together and got So much done. It was just incredible. It was a fascinating time of my life. I was 26 years. And she just turned out to be be the best in the world. I just I can’t say enough about her. She was bright, creative, inventive, always up, ready to go every single day, no matter what was ahead of her. She just had an optimistic view that something better was just around the corner, no matter how bad things were looking, she was so optimistic she was just ready to move on to the next thing.

Bob Traynor 20:30
Great. And as you say, we could spend the whole interview talking about Dr. Downs. My pleasure to be part of a group that lobbied hard at the University of Northern Colorado for the honorary doctorate from Marion and, and as well as a number of other colleagues around the world that were lobbying for the same, that same recognition,

Jerry Northern 20:54
I think, she ended up with three honorary doctorate degrees. By the time of her passing, you know, since you mentioned Hearing in Children, I will tell you that because I’m often asked how that happened. And we got into that. So I was pretty new at the University of Colorado. 1970 maybe on the faculty. When I got a proposal from Williams and Wilkins book publishers and someone had submitted an audiologist had submitted an outline for a book on pediatric audiology that was delivered, I think. And they asked me to review the proposal and give them an opinion whether it was a valuable book or not. You know, asking me for an opinion at that early age in my career boy, I looked over that, that submission that application for it, and it was really boring. It was really all it is about as boring and uninteresting, as you can imagine. So I happen to give the the book a rather critical review, I concluded by saying we really did need a book in the field on pediatric audiologists, because none none existed at that point. So I got a call back very shortly after that saying, Well, if you’re so damn smart, why don’t you write? I said, I could do that. Knowing full well that I really couldn’t, and probably went down the hallway to ask Marion Downs, if she would help me write a book on pediatrics. Of course, she was happy to do that. So we signed the contract. And they call us back in about a year and said, How’s it going? And I said, fabulous. We’re just, we’re just moving along, when we actually hadn’t written a single page. They called it six months later said, are you ready? We’re almost there. We’re almost there.

Bob Traynor 22:33
Kind of the way books go, though, isn’t it?

Jerry Northern 22:37
then Marion had said, you know, they’re really bugging us, we gotta do something. She said, Okay, that’s, we can do that. And sure enough, we cranked out that first edition of Hearing in Children in about six months. But in doing that, I have to say we stayed in that office till dark every single night. And we were back at our desks at 6am. In the morning, we divided up nicely into pieces that she had expertise in and pieces that I had expertise in. It came out pretty well. I remember thinking, Oh, my God, I can’t believe I really wrote a book. I hope I never have to do that again. And it caught on right away, because there was just a need for that book. Once again, right place, right timing, great opportunity. Interesting, as additional editions of it came out in later years. Marion got kind of bored with it. She helped a little in the second edition. But by the time the third, fourth, fifth sixth editions came, I have to say that Marion was not very involved in those. It just kind of moved on beyond her. I loved keeping her name in the book and sharing the royalties with her. That was the least I could do to honor her for all she had come for me.

Bob Traynor 23:50
Yeah. I still remember as a as a intern, Marion called me into her office one day and said, you know, this, these are the these are the kind of the drawings we’re gonna put in the book. What do you think? It’s like- what do I think? What why would anybody care what I think? and, and they were the some of the drawings that are still in the book. Quite a quite an interesting thing for an intern to have any input on.

Jerry Northern 24:18
We had a resident in our program at that time who had come to us from Israel. And he brought his wife and I visited their home one day, they invited me for dinner one evening, I went to their home and I realized that there were all these beautiful drawings all over this house. And it turned out that his wife was an artist. And so that was the opening. I tore out a bunch of photographs and pictures that I liked that would fit our and to her and asked her to do a drawing that I could use as on the cover of hearing your children. So I came back I guess a few weeks later, and she laid out about eight pictures for me. And she said you know choose one of these if you think one of these would fit your cover and she had really stylistic approach of just using a pen drawing very quickly. And the drawing would be a line drawing, but it looked like she never really picked her pen up but t she did, did them all together fabulous pictures, and I said, Oh my gosh, I can’t pick one. What if I, what if I tried to use them all? And she hesitated. She said, Well, I, you know, I’m a professional artist, I’d have to charge you to use my work like that. And I said, Well, what would that cost? And she said, Would $10 A picture be too much? So I took all the pictures and managed to fit each one of them to a chapter in the book. So I kept those pictures through all six editions, I’ve always liked them. I have changed the cover a little bit once in a while. The first cover showed a baby an embryo with a little ear horn.

Bob Traynor 25:50
And if you recall that or I do, yeah, that’s what I saw.

Jerry Northern 25:53
That came off of a little brochure that I checked her out of our OBGYN and clinic that they gave to new mothers. And she redrew it and put it I got complaints from that, because I don’t know what people thought they did not like the idea of this baby in utero. So in future editions, I had to take the invitro background out of the picture, and just left a little baby with an air horn on it. So anyway, that was sort of interesting profile of the book.

Bob Traynor 26:21
Well, that that is a legend in pediatric audiology. And we’ll talk more about that here in just a little bit. But, you know, I, again, as a student of audiology, I think I was a doc student at the time, you and your colleagues at American Electromedics were kind enough to let me run the slide projector or something to give me a deal, because no one had taught me anything about impedance audiometry, which later became immittance audiometry. And, and it added greatly to my education to do that. But and I think you guys must have done what three, over a three year period, you did like 100 courses all around the country.

Jerry Northern 27:07
Let’s go back to the beginning of that. So picture in your mind, if you will, that in audiology clinics, there was no middle, no way to measure the middle ear pathology, all we could do is compare bone conduction measurements to do air conduction measurements and make -predictions about what’s going on in the middle ear, whether it’s an air-bone gap, etc. And there was no way to differentiate among air-bone gaps. It was a gap or not a gap. When in Denmark suddenly someone invented the clinical, what we called then an impedance meter, they brought it over and showed it to Jim Jerger, and he just took on into it, immediately recognizing how important this could be. For differentiating middle ear disorders, that’s where it started. The sales of that instrument was turned over to an American entrepreneur named Irwin Klar. And somehow Klar and Jerger got together and designed a two day course, that they would, that they put on in some sample city and drew people to come to this course to learn how to do quote, impedance, or as you say, immittance audiometry. And they set up, I think, a dozen machines at tables, three people to a table. And it was a two day course but Jerger was going to teach it but he couldn’t stay the whole time. So then ended up inviting me to come and give a portion of the course. Well, it was very successful course I have to say that I think all 12 people or they must have sold all 12 instruments that people were just dragging them out under their arm, because they realized it was important. That addition that would be the clinical testing. So the success of that program then put us all together, ended up putting together as you point out, I think 90 some courses that were taught all over the world, around the United States. I found myself on this on this escapade of teaching one of these courses once a month. So I would go off on a Friday, teach this course on Friday, Saturday and be back home. And we just taught in every city just really exploded. People were very interested in the courses are always full. We then had advanced impedance courses and immittance courses. We then had international immittance courses. So there was a period in the early 70s, probably 73-74, up through 1980s where these courses were going on and literally I think we we taught every audiologist who had the slightest bit of interest, attended one of those courses. Well that turned out again to be a great opportunity for me. Not only was it a lot of travel, but I have to meet audiologists from around the world kinds of audiology leaders and that was very beneficial to me in later years as I put together conferences and meetings and and books and so forth. I just had innumerable contacts of really, really good, strong people.

Bob Traynor 30:07
That was formable times for a lot of us. I know, I can think of five or six colleagues that we all sat back said, wow, if we could only do that you set the precedent you and Bill Carver, I think were some of the first people to really cross the line from clinic and academics into some of the commercial kinds of things and set the example for all of us, which actually led to later audiologists being hearing aid reps. And, and those of us that did consulting with companies later on, this was the beginning of that component of the profession for all of us.

Jerry Northern 30:50
I think what it was the beginning of Bob was the beginning of bringing people together to have a practice some kind of a course, that had not been done in our field before. And so the outline of that with people working on instrumentation, practicing on each other. That’s what really developed over the years so 7that we then had courses in cerumen and in balance and vestibular disorders where people would come together, sit at instruments work on each other, get practice, and then, you know, go out and apply that in clinics. I think that was really the key to those early immittance courses. That’s what that brought about.

Bob Traynor 31:27
Well, there was there was a one of the ads I’ll never forget, that had a great big picture of a thing like this, it said, stick it in your ear. And, and I look for that somewhere, anyplace on the internet, I never could find it. I had to, I had to look around for it. I couldn’t find one. And I’m sure I got a book around here that’s got that in there somewhere. But

Jerry Northern 31:50
along the way, we, Irwin Klar developed what he called a tympanometer. And it was a little small device, just a small box device that had a little handheld probe, and it would run a little train as soon as you got to seal, it was designed for children. Soon as you got to seal in the air, the paper would take off the test would start you’d see a little car come across the the paper a little a little silhouette of a car. And it would trace the child’s tympanogram tear it off. And there you go. And the theme for that whole little tympanometer was stick it in your ear because kids, we can say that two parents put a little bit of humor on the whole the whole testing procedure. So I

Bob Traynor 32:31
understand there were some some some things with with the courses that were of interest in various parts of the world.

Jerry Northern 32:43
Well, I think you’re probably referring to a trip I made to the to the Himalayas, in Nepal. I’ve always been a big mountain person, being a Colorado guy myself. And I’ve always been an Mount Everest buff, read everything about Mount Everest that ever existed articles books about mountain climbing. I’ve just been an armchair mountaineer, if you will. But anyway, in 1984, I had an opportunity to go the base camp of Everest. And I decided, gosh, I was so excited about that I was going with one of the very early adventure group companies, they were putting 12 people together to walk from Kathmandu to the base camp of Everest. And I enjoyed that. But I started thinking about that and I thought, you know, all those little children that live up there in the Himalayas, I wonder what their Eustachian tube function is, in fact, if I can put together a project or research project, I could probably write this whole trip off of my taxes as a business expense. So I got together with my my audiology friend from Denver, my good audiology friend from Denver, Darrel Teter, I talked him into coming along with me to help me with this project in the Himalayas. So I contacted the adventure company and asked them if that would be a problem. They said, No, we could work on that. I then called Paul Madsen from the Madsen company who made the earliest immittance meters because the problem was really that there was no electricity at these primary schools up in the Himalayas. And I asked him if he had a battery operated unit. And he said, Well, we have a prototype, Jerry have a meeting of an impedance meter. It’s not very portable, because it takes 24 D batteries, the biggest size large D batteries, there’s 24 of them. I said, well, that that might work for me. Let me see. So I call the adventure company back and said, Oh my gosh, I’ve got this battery operated piece of equipment. I know we’re going to visit a primary school along the way up in the Himalayas, but I worked out a project with the children from that school. Would that be a problem? Oh, well, no, that would be pretty good. That’d be pretty interesting for our whole group as a matter of fact, but we can’t carry that instrument. You’d have to hire your own Yak and your own Sherpa in charge of that we can’t be responsible for that. I said, Well, I could, I could work that out. So indeed, off we went. I hired my own yak, my own Sherpa who followed us all the way from Katmandu. About 15,000 feet where this little Primary School was just, I had written the school principle, and we were all set to go. He had the children all lined up, there was no electricity in the school. So all the little kids showed up, and they were all bundled up because it was cold up there. And they were kind of dirty and kind of ruffled, but they’re really cute little first graders. And I was going to do tympanometry and try to measure Eustachian tube function on these people that lived at 15,000 feet. I don’t know what I was thinking. But so we went to the school. And Darrel Teter now has stepped forward to help me and I load I open up the case with the meters and all of batteries are just scattered all over the place. From being carried by this yak for 20 miles, the batteries were dead, because it was so cold at night there. So I had to put that all together and we repackaged the unit and I got it working. Pretty excited about that. And as the first little child showed up, I said to Darrel – hand me the probe tips. And he said uh there’s no, there’s no probe tips, or I don’t see anything I saw there must be I packed everything, I’m sure I got the probe tips. Well, lo and behold, it turned out I forgot the probe tips. We were all this what 8000 miles from home, this special piece of equipment hauled by a yak, and the whole project was going down the toilet, because I’d forgotten probe tips. So we talked together quickly and decided to do a little hearing test on all the children, we would just screen their hearing and recognizing that we couldn’t do impedance measurements on them. And nobody seemed to be the wiser in our group, they couldn’t really tell what we were doing. We gave each of the kids a little balloon and a pencil when they were done. So the kids were happy. And we sort of quietly packed our gear and went on to mount Mount Everest without ever describing much of what happened to anybody. And kind of a teaser between Darrel Teter and myself all these years honestly.

Bob Traynor 37:16
Well, no. And, and and on and on into books of hearing disorders, three editions and being a founder of Seminars in Hearing and Seminars in speech language pathology as well. These are the stories that these publications are made from and, and and a life in audiology. You know, the Colorado Hearing Foundation, I think, I think it lists it started in 1974. And it’s been around for 50 years plus or whatever. And

Jerry Northern 37:54
that’s kind of an interesting development as well. Marion Downs and I in those early years, the early 70s It actually started before I came back to the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Marion Downs and the Chief of Otolaryngology. Garth Hemenway had gotten a grant from NIH, I think, where they were going to bring together 10 audiologists and 10 otologists. But try to put these two together to see if they could create a cooperative, improved hearing assessment clinical program, if these two groups would sit down and talk together, because at that point, they’d been sort of strangers to each other. So they met in Estes Park, and actually George von bekesy was a speaker at that very first meeting, I was not there. The next year, they got funding again for the meeting, because it was pretty successful. But the funding came late. And they had a very short period of time to put it into place, or they were going to lose the funding. And I stood up and said, Oh, gosh, it’s winter. Let’s do a ski meeting. That’s a good idea. Well, yeah, we’ll do a ski meeting. We’ll bring 10 otologists 10 Audiologists together at Vail. And we’ll use Garth Hemingway’s condo. And we’ll just have a meeting there and we’ll use the funds that worked well. Again, that was just a successful endeavor. I kind of grabbed it at that point off with it. And as you well know, Bob, we ran that ski meeting for otology and Audiology for 30 years. It was a successful meeting, a fabulous meeting. I tried, I ran it through the Medical School to begin with, but unfortunately the medical school would not pay for liquor. They would not let us up, they wouldn’t reimburse us for liquor. They wouldn’t reimburse the speakers prior to the meeting, so that some of the speakers had to put up their own money and then wait for a reimbursement which might take up to three months in medical school, the process. And there just were a lot of limitations, including the fact that medical school was 10% of the proceeds of the meeting. And I could see that they really didn’t do anything we did the whole meeting ourselves. So I got the grand idea to just start our own nonprofit corporation, which I did. We’ve changed the name several times, but it’s now the Colorado Hearing Foundation. And we ran the meeting for 25 years out of that organization, instead of running it out of the medical school. And so, the meeting continues to be very successful. And it’s a day I would say we had 250 or 300 attendees, we would meet in the morning, early morning, we’d meet with breakfast, we’d stop at 930, when the lifts began to run, everybody would ski all day long, and come back at four o’clock, and we’d have meetings from four o’clock to seven o’clock that evening. It was very popular, a fabulous science meeting, in spite of the fact of it was held in a recreational kind of environment.

Bob Traynor 40:47
Or for a young audiologist. The ski meeting was where we learned mountains about the profession from some of the some of the most influential people in in the field, as well as since we didn’t have we, you know, many of our schools and when do you kind of went into demise, many of our schools weren’t the northwestern or Vanderbilt’s or some of these kinds of places. And so this is where we met the the high level individuals, some of the giants of their time. And also one metals like this little Nastar medal that that I still remember I did have one that was higher than a bronze, but I can’t find it anymore. So sure, sure. That’s what you’re saying. Now, that’s what I’m saying now,

Jerry Northern 41:37
that’s easy to say now. Yeah, we did it. We had a ski race, nastar ski race in the middle of our meeting on Thursday, always, it was called The Big Ear, the Big Ear ski race. And we videotaped it, and then we would show it at night banquet. Of course, it was very funny because people skiied horribly and they fell and they crashed. And that was really, that was really pretty fun. But, Bob, you know, that was a good connection for me. Because that ski meeting, I was able to invite all those faculty people that I met earlier in my career when I was at Walter Reed, and when I was the army representative to NIH, to the Surgeon General’s office to, you know, I was able to meet a lot of really key people that were putting together the hearing science that ultimately became what we know as ideology. But because of that, I was able to invite people like Joe Zwislocki, J.D. Harris, and Chuck Berlin, and just just just on and on, people that I had met along the way, Jack Vernon, and just so many, I was able to bring them as faculty to the ski meeting which and increasing the value of the ski meeting immensely. And we just always had this super faculty that couldn’t be matched anyplace else.

Bob Traynor 42:54
And those of us that were kind enough to get a scholarship, not total scholarship, of course, but enough of a scholarship to make it and run the slide projector and do a few little things around around the meeting. You know, my kids actually grew up at skiing at that meeting. They they used to get a buzzer remember

Jerry Northern 43:14
best about you, Bobby, we’re always on hand to run the run the projector, impedance course or the ski meeting, symposium, I can always turn to you and say, Hey, Bob, would you mind running the projector?

Bob Traynor 43:26
Hopefully that will carry a little bit of a scholarship with it, maybe not a whole lot. But you know, and and I will never forget my, my, I think my first and only presentation at the ski meeting that dealt with audio implants and a new processor for the implants and that kind of thing. And he talked about intimidation for a young doctoral level audiologist with with Mead Killion, Chuck Berlin, you Blair Simmons, Darrel Teter, virtually all these people in the front row that I that I expect. And after lots of sweat that went into the talk and dripping with sweat when I finished, it was such a kind group that welcomed young presenters to the stage and, and made suggestions here and there as to how you could make it a little better for the next talk.

Jerry Northern 44:22
And another thing about that meeting, the faculty people would tell me that they would often bring their newest research and present it to the group because there was such a start a strong collection of people at the program, they wanted to hear it, they wanted to present their information their early and get feedback on it before they went to publication. So that was one of their their incentives for coming and speaking at the audiology meeting you ski meeting.

Bob Traynor 44:50
Well, that there’s also the you mentioned Chuck Berlin. There’s also the Jerry and Chuck show that went on at that at that meeting virtually every time And we all look so forward to that. I mean, here’s one of the masters of mceeing meetings, eating the master of the piano, and ABR and no number of other things that went on in the profession at the time.

Jerry Northern 45:14
You know that Chuck berlin was just such a great friend and a great pianist. There was a piano anywhere within 500 yards of a meeting, Chuck Berlin would sit down and just play for hours and hours. And somehow we would all we had a banquet at the ski meeting always at the end, where we would hand out our medals for the ski race. And sort of jokingly make fun of people for the for the evening kind of roasted, if you will, in fact that I would spend a few minutes on that day early. And we worked out a little performance where I would, I would say something and then he would play a piano musical tune to match whatever I was talking about. And then we would go back and forth. Well, gosh, we put that little dog and pony show all kinds of places as it turned out. If people would invite us they invite me to be the emcee. And me the piano player and I guess we were the mutton Jeff of the audiology world as we went around with this little dog and pony show.

Bob Traynor 46:10
Well, I think that also bled into the as you were a board member of the Jackson Hole rendezvous, that bled into that meeting also from what I gather.

Jerry Northern 46:21
But you know, the Jackson Hole rendezvous rendezvous was another very famous meeting because it was held in such a beautiful place. It’s held in the summer, not the ski meeting, Michael Marion, an audiologist. Put that together, he was from Wyoming, and called it the the rendezvous, which was a pretty catchy little name. And it operated the same way we’d meet in the mornings, we’d meet in the afternoons, and leave the day open for hiking, horseback riding, it always ended with a float trip for the whole group down than the Snake River right in front of the Grand Teton. So it was a beautiful meeting. Yeah, I was proud to be a speaker there many, many times and work with Michael on his board. As he put the meeting together. We met every other year, as I recall, not every year is every other year.

Bob Traynor 47:10
It was absolutely super. But I think one of the one of the crowning engagements that you had was your time with an old friend of both of ours, Dr. Gus Mueller and the Trivia Bowl.

Jerry Northern 47:28
The Trivia Bowl started with the beginning of the American Academy of Audiology. I honestly, I don’t know how much detail to go into. But I’d been appointed by ASHA at that point, because we didn’t have an academy to be the convention chair in Seattle for that year, which probably was 1989. So I was the chair. But before you could be the chair you had to serve on the convention committee for Asha. And I served on the convention committee in charge of hearing disorders. I had to bring together people to read all of the papers that are being submitted for hearing disorders at the ASHA convention, we would choose which papers would be presented and which ones would, unfortunately be rejected. Well, rather than send all these papers out to five people, I just invited them to Colorado and said, Let’s all sit together down one time. We’ll go over the papers all at once. And by the way, I happen to have a mountain home over there by Aspen. And why don’t we just meet there for a weekend? That would be really cool. They all jumped right on that. And so that weekend involved Gus Mueller, myself, Linda hood, Brad Stach, Fred Bess. This were five of us. I leave anybody out? I don’t think so. We sat down. Of course, we did all the papers in about two hours. And they were done. We had the whole weekend left. Brad and Gus showed up with a trunk full of beer in their car. And we sat on our deck and really discuss world affairs as you can imagine. It’s impossible. All of a sudden, Gus began to tease us with a little bit of audiology trivia. It’s just sort of a funny little way. Do any of you guys know what such and such and such as I was aware, at the time that the University of Colorado had a very well known trivia bowl, where the University of Colorado in Boulder, there would be championship teams come in from all the universities and they would have this big trivia blowout, once a year on the deficit. So the idea came together. Why don’t we… and Bess and Tom Miller, Tom Powers. And maybe Brad has just come from a bar where they had started those trivia games in a bar someplace. And they thought they were pretty smug and smart because they all had PhDs. But turned out they lost that night to a group of secretaries that were sitting there sitting by them, so that irritated them but anyway, the short of the story is on that deck that day, we decided to try an audiology trivia bowl, and we would do it at the American Academy of Audiology and Bess and I would gather the questions and then I would be the present there would be the Alex Trebeck of the system, I would present the questions. Gus would come on afterwards, he would give all the answers. Well, that just turned out to be giantly more successful than we ever, ever anticipated until it became a major part of the American Academy of Audiology convention. And so on the last day of the convention Saturday at noon, sponsored by Siemens, for the entire time, we did it for 25 straight years, we had the annual American Academy of Audiology, trivia bowl, and we would ask questions about hearing, hearing disorders, current events that had to do with hearing or hearing disorders or misdemeanor things, all related audiology, but really tough little questions, and the contest of the attendees would sit at tables up in, they would make up a little trivia team names. And we’d have a team competition with prizes at the end. It was just a fun, fun activity and a real challenge for people to see if they can outsmart us and their knowledge of trivia.

Bob Traynor 51:10
Well, as a member of the Phonemic Regressives, I can say that we we totally missed the trivia at AAA. And now, did you have some other fabulous team names

Jerry Northern 51:29
on the front, because we also had a contest among other people too, among all the tables to come up with the best trivia name each year. And then we’d bring Mead Killion up on the stage and this little sound level meter, which he always carried in his pocket, we would have applause for each of the each of the candidate names and the nurse applause name would get a prize for their table run. People were incredibly clever with their names. Phonemic regressives? No, that was a that was a pretty good name. And I think you guys are pretty successful once you and your team over the years. Oh, yeah, a few times one a few times. But

Bob Traynor 52:02
they joined. We joined them after maybe seven, eight years. But finally we joined in and, and it was a it was a good group.

Jerry Northern 52:11
You know, the the names that I always liked best for the ones that had to do with ears or hearing. People often had names and had to do with the city where we were meeting, or current events, or movie titles or something that was going on in the press at that time. But I always liked the names that had to do mostly with hearing one way or another. So I’m gonna give you a few samples of what came up there is a group called 2 DB or 2 DB hotshot hearus. The SISIs, they were stupid is as stupid is at the time of that movie as well. The ear-resistibles the Cerumenators. So good, it Hz. And that was named one team and Bad Hair Cell Days. And they just went on and on. We often had as many as 50 tables of 10 at the meeting. So there were a lot of names, but my favorite my outright favorite was Narharts Crotch.

Bob Traynor 53:13
Oh, oh, yeah.

Jerry Northern 53:15
That was an early name. That was so good. No one ever used it again afterwards.

Bob Traynor 53:19
Absolutely fabulous.

Jerry Northern 53:20
It just stood by itself.

Bob Traynor 53:22
So did you have a favorite question that you remember from the trivia bowl at all? Jerry?

Jerry Northern 53:28
Gosh, that is tough. I don’t know. You know, we have a we’ve we put together on a CD. That is available on Gus Mueller’s website. And you could go to Gus I guess that’s his website,

Bob Traynor 53:46
or or something like that? Yeah.

Jerry Northern 53:49
And you can find the American Academy of Audiology trivia questions are all 25 years and the answers. And as a matter of fact, they are the best team names for that whole period of 25 years. So that’s a pretty fun website. And and if you have absolutely nothing else to do in your life, that would be a waste of valuable time. That’s

Bob Traynor 54:13
well speaking have absolutely nothing to do. There was one project that has been relatively recent, and that that I know you were intimately involved in and I was lucky enough to be put on the committee for and that would be How to Eat Like an Audiologist. And so it’s kind of an audiology cookbook that you actually funded the publishing of, for the Academy.

Jerry Northern 54:42
Well, that was a project. We were actually meeting a group of us. We were in Phoenix, we were attending the American Auditory Society meeting we met we ended up at a restaurant together. What about six of us, I think, around the roundtable, after about the third bottle of wine somehow we were told Talking about the dinner that went into recipes that went into cookbooks. And all of a sudden that came up, why don’t we do a audiology cookbook? Every organization has a cookbook. And we would just do it on behalf of the American Academy of Audiology Foundation. We put all the proceeds into the foundation for sales of the cookbook. And the six of us would underwrite the cost of publishing the cookbook. I said, Yeah, that’s a great idea. Off we went. We set it up, of course, we met up in Bismarck, North Dakota, Gus Mueller’s house for a weekend. And it was you. lovely wife, Krista Georgene Ray was there, myself, Gus and his wife, Karen, six of us. And over that weekend, then we laid out the strategic plan, if you will, for how to put this book together. So we wrote to 100 audiologists, I think asked them for their favorite recipe, and some other little tidbits about themselves. And they set them all and we put it all together, laid it all out. And in fact, got it published. supported a little bit by the Colorado Hearing Foundation in the end, because we didn’t quite have enough funds to pull it off. The Academy distributed and I think it made some money, hopefully for the American Academy of Audiology foundation.

Bob Traynor 56:18
It was a fun, fun, fun,

Jerry Northern 56:20
fun project. Yeah. And in fact, ad hoc cookbook committee.

Bob Traynor 56:25
Well, and and we got to tour all the breweries in, in Bismarck, North Dakota. Plus, there is I only took second place in the crow shoes contest. But I understand you guys were the first place.

Jerry Northern 56:42
Well, you know, Gus invented, I guess, had the whole weekend laid out.

Bob Traynor 56:47
Great inventor, of course, yeah, well, yeah,

Jerry Northern 56:49
he did a lot of meetings. And he laid out a whole formal organization of what we would do for two days. But he wanted to be sure that it was not all business. And it was a lovely time of year. So we went out into his yard. And he had invented a game on pro shoes, crow shoes. And it was kind of a combination game between croquet, and horseshoes. And we divided up in teams and play this game. And mostly, we had a tailgate setup right there by the game so we could keep ourselves well hydrated during the match. And as I recall, my team won, Bob, and I’m so sorry, you came in second place?

Bob Traynor 57:26
Well, that’s okay. There are probably a third place team as well. And we’re middle of the roaders. I think on a more serious note, Jerry, on behalf of my colleagues in the American Academy of Audiology, and around the profession, you have graciously presented the Jerry, Northern Scholarship in pediatric audiology to our young developing colleagues in the area of Pediatrics.

Jerry Northern 57:59
Well, that’s That’s nice of you to bring it up, Bob, and I appreciate your comments about retirement, you know, you’ll all you audiologists, we’ll figure that out and your retirement, might want to still be involved a little bit in audiology at your own level. And, and I wanted to give back, I know that’s kind of a cliche, but I really wanted to give back to this profession that had been so good to me, all the 50-60 years that I have been involved. And I decided that a way to do that would be to provide scholarships, to young AuD students who were committed to work in pediatrics. That was my interest. So I was fortunate enough to be able to fund three scholarships a year and a half $1,000 apiece to young AuD students and their third and fourth year, also to help offset the huge demand for scholarships, I’m sorry, huge demand for tuition fees that they were undergoing with student debt and so forth. I thought scholarships would be a way to help out in that arena, as well as to ensure that we would have good qualified people continuing in pediatric audiology. And so that’s been underway for three years, I think I have funded 10 incredibly valuable, well trained. AuD candidates who will go on with pediatric careers. We will have three more next year. And hopefully if all goes well, perhaps I can extend the funding and keep that program going. It’s a program I’m very proud of. And happy to do that in my retirement years and I’m able to do that through my Colorado Hearing Foundation, which which continues to this day.

Bob Traynor 59:43
And I might add that those of you who want to read a little more about Dr. Northern as well as look more into the Colorado Hearing Foundation. You can find that at Jerry,

Jerry Northern 1:00:04
you’ll see a couple of other, you’ll see a couple of other projects on there, Bob that we support. One is we work with Children’s Hospital in Denver. And we support Dorries discovery days, named for my mother in law’s a matter of fact, Dorrie Segar. And we put a summer camp on for hearing impaired and deaf children from the Colorado Children’s Hospital. We do that every year. We’ve done that now for maybe 12 or 14 years. And we support the HOPE School here in Spokane, Washington, where my daughter is the head teacher, and it’s a preschool for hearing impaired kids, right here in town. So I’ve been able to stay active and a lot of audiology activities through those kinds of things, which I’m grateful for, and which I enjoy a lot.

Bob Traynor 1:00:49
Jerry, this has been a very, very special interview for me, as a, to interview one of my mentors, a guy who was on my doctoral committee, and I stand on on shoulders of the giants of our profession. And thank you so much for your time, energy and effort that went into today’s discussion.

Jerry Northern 1:01:10
Well, thank you. It was a nice trip back and memories and reminiscences for me, so always fun and always good to see you. Thanks for having me.

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About the Panel

Jerry Northern, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus at the University Of Colorado School Of Medicine in Denver, Colorado. He is President of the Colorado Hearing Foundation and serves on the Board of Directors of the Marion Downs Center in Denver. Dr. Northern retired from the faculty of at University of Colorado School of Medicine in 1996 after 26 years at the University Hospital as Professor of Otolaryngology and Director of Audiology Clinical Services.

He received a BA degree in Experimental Psychology from Colorado College in 1962, holds Master’s Degrees from Gallaudet University of Washington, DC (MS, 1963) and the University of Denver (MA, 1964) and earned his PhD in Audiology at the University of Colorado (Boulder) in 1966. He served in the US Army Medical Services Corps during the Viet Nam Conflict from 1966 – 1968 and continued in civilian status as the Assistant Director of the US Army Audiology and Speech Pathology Center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center through 1970. His professional activities have included clinical practice, teaching, medical-legal consultation, research activities, as well as extensive writing and lecturing. A prolific author, he has written, edited and co-authored more than a dozen textbooks including several reprinted in multiple editions and translated into foreign language editions. 


Robert M. Traynor, Ed.D., is a hearing industry consultant, trainer, professor, conference speaker, practice manager and author.  He has decades of experience teaching courses and training clinicians within the field of audiology with specific emphasis in hearing and tinnitus rehabilitation. He serves as Adjunct Faculty in Audiology at the University of Florida, University of Northern Colorado, University of Colorado and The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.



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