This is a third part of the history of audiology pioneers in hearing aid manufacturing and features recollections by Terry Griffing, one of the pioneers. The first two parts featured history as recalled by Robert Briskey and Richard Scott.
I started my career as a clinical audiologist at the Mayo Clinic at Rochester, Minnesota in 1960. As a clinical audiologist at the Mayo Clinic with staff status and security for my future, I nevertheless made a decision to resign in 1970, deciding that the future as an audiologist was in the hearing aid industry. Most, if not all of the audiologists who knew me were convinced I was making a huge mistake. My career-changing decision was based on the belief that I was confident audiology would be a major factor in hearing aids in the near future. In making this change, my career goal was to learn the hearing aid field from every area: sales, marketing, manufacturing, and management. The ultimate goal was to someday run a hearing aid company.
Hearing Aid Industry
So, with my resignation from the Mayo Clinic in 1970 I joined Qualitone in sales, replacing Richard Scott, and eventually becoming Vice President of Marketing. As custom-molded in-the-ear hearing aids in the industry grew, Qualitone remained opposed to manufacturing such products (just a passing fad, they said). As a result, in 1975 I joined a small company named Starkey which was making inroads selling custom-molded in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids. My role with Starkey was to promote the custom-molded hearing aid concept.
In my desire to manage a hearing aid company, I joined Dahlberg as Executive Vice President, was later involved in starting Rexton and Argosy, and then in 1980, with Jerry Blue (All American Earmold Lab) founded Omni Hearing Systems in Dallas, Texas. The company was successful and in 1984 was purchased by Richards Medical, a major supplier to the ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) profession, and with this purchase I returned to work for Starkey. As the industry started its consolidation, Omni/Richards was subsequently purchased by Starkey and was incorporated into Starkey Labs.
In my first 10 years in the industry, I was frequently a spokesperson for both the industry and dispensers in U.S. Senate and state hearings relative to hearing aid dispensing practices and state hearing aid licensing legislation. Our opposition was mostly audiologists and ENT physicians who were not yet dispensing hearing aids. The irony is that most of the opposition at that time is now dispensing (selling) hearing aids.
From my early beginnings working in the hearing aid industry, I was dropped from ASHA as a member with certification because I was involved in retail selling of hearing aids.
And, I Continue To Enjoy Working
More recently I worked in sales for both Authorized Hearing and for Audina. I also worked at Avada Hearing in Minnesota with over 30 retail outlets. I currently dispense hearing instruments for Sams Club in Minnesota, which seems to be the new wave of dispensing practices. I plan to be here until such time I decide to quit.
The directions in hearing aid dispensing lead me to think that my career change decision was correct. Unfortunately, some of the newer hearing aid technology could have an adverse effect on the future market needs of the industry: namely, helping more people to enjoy better hearing. The high prices for current hearing aids and the associated costs to dispensers could lessen the number of older people seeking hearing help. In the long term (2015 and perhaps beyond), audiologists may find their futures associated with large retail outlets that dispense hearing aids.