Jim Delk – Crewcut Trademark
James (Jim) Delk was one of the seven pioneers in the hearing aid industry at the manufacturing level who helped set the stage for later audiologists working for hearing aid manufacturers. Unfortunately, most of Jim’s story will not be told. He died August 11, 1997 in Sun Lakes, Arizona. My comments will not do justice to his contributions, for they were many. I had the opportunity to work with Jim for a couple of years at Audiotone (former manufacturer of hearing aids in Phoenix, AZ) after we asked him to help us after he retired, which he did for a couple of years during the mid 1980’s. And, I had an opportunity to publish at least one article with him during that time. In addition to his trademark crewcut, he could always be counted upon to refer to his wife affectionately as “M’Lady.” Wayne Staab, Editor of Wayne’s World
Jim earned a teaching credential from UCLA in 1934. While in Sacramento, CA, it was learned that one of his sons had a hearing problem, and Jim became interested in the field of hearing rehabilitation. As a result, Jim and his wife operated a hearing aid office for seven years there in the early 1950’s. And, twenty years after he had received his teaching degree, he enrolled at California State College in Los Angeles to study for a B.S. degree in the new field of audiology. While there he was associated with its Speech and Hearing Clinic for two years.
This was followed by a year and a half in research on the effects of noise on hearing with Dr. Aram Glorig, Research Director of the Subcommittee on Conservation of Hearing, American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology. He also devoted a year to research into the effect of drugs on hearing, again under the direction of Dr. Glorig and Dr. William Hewitt of the University of California Medical Center in Los Angeles.
For two-and-one-half years he was Administrator of the HEAR Foundation in California, working in association with Dr. Ciwa Griffiths in the early discovery and education of deaf and hard-of-hearing children.
In the 1960’s he spent seven years employed by Vicon, a no-longer-in-business hearing aid company in Colorado Springs. He traveled the US promoting the use of hearing aids by children. His greatest interest during this time was demonstrating to physicians and hospital personnel a device designed to screen the hearing of babies within a few hours of birth.*
Jim finished his career in the hearing aid industry in 1976 after serving for eight years as Director of Audiological Services for the Audiotone Division of Royal Industries, Phoenix AZ, manufacturer of hearing instruments and testing and training devices for the hard of hearing. Even though he trained and worked as an audiologist for many years, the American Speech and Hearing Association disallowed his certification as an audiologist because he was employed in the hearing aid industry. He retired from Audiotone in 1976. He was asked by a friend who was ill if he would manage her hearing aid office in California, which he did for about another 5 years or so, and then returned to the Phoenix, Arizona area.
One of Jim’s greatest contributions to the discipline of hearing was his publication of the “Comprehensive Dictionary of Audiology” (1975). This popular publication was revised three times. Additionally, he was also the first audiologist in industry to set up a formal series of educational meetings (eight per year) devoted to traditional hearing aid dealers, audiologists (who could not dispense hearing aids at the time), otolaryngologists, and teachers of the deaf – all of whom were invited to Phoenix for these three-day sessions. It is safe to say that essentially every person from these disciplines who made significant contributions to their disciplines was invited as a guest lecturer for these sessions to speak on a topic of their interest (each session was recorded). These lectures were complimented with tours of the hearing aid manufacturing facility to show how hearing aids were fabricated. Jim, as a member of the Educational Committee of the National Hearing Aid Society, had a major responsibility in the revision of the correspondence course designed to give hearing aid dealers basic information required in the fitting of hearing aids.
Perhaps these words from William G. Hardy, Ph.D., past Professor and Director of the Division of Communicative Sciences and the Hearing and Speech Center of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institution who had known Jim for about twenty-five years described Jim best. “I am keenly aware of having known him in various capacities – as a man, a husband, a businessman, a specialist in rehabilitation with particular concern for children, as a doer of things with hearing aids and with those who need them, and mostly as a humanist. For what it is worth, I have known him always as a gentle man with an inquiring mind.”
*I was first exposed to Jim while I was studying audiology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison around 1964/65 when he demonstrated this unit, the “Arpitron” to our class.