This blog is part of a continuing series providing background about the role of audiologists in the hearing aid industry, specifically at the manufacturing level. The series focuses on those audiologists who were with manufacturers long enough to make substantial contributions to the positions that audiologists enjoy today as hearing aid manufacturer representatives. The stories highlight the conflicts between theory and reality of ASHA (American Speech and Hearing Association) as it related to ethical issues for audiologists. This blog focuses on one of the earliest audiologists to test the private sector rather than employment with a non-profit organization – William (Bill) Carver, Ph.D. Wayne J. Staab, Ph.D., Editor, Wayne’s World
An Experience as an Audiologist in the Employ of an Hearing Aid ManufacturerBy William F. Carver, Ph.D. President and CEO, Auditec, Inc.
I obtained a Ph.D. in Audiology at the University of Southern California in 1960. My first employment following this was with Beltone Electronics Corporation (then called Beltone Hearing Aid Co.) in Chicago, IL. I was hired with the understanding that I would not be involved in selling products. In this position I was allowed to work in professional relations and conducted some research as well. I advised on new products and traveled throughout the United States and Canada meeting with colleagues, giving talks, and so on. I remained with Beltone for 8 years, but during this time decided that I required additional education and research experience. I was offered a special post-doctoral fellowship at Northwestern University under Drs. Raymond Carhart and Tom Tillman, remaining there for three years. Following this training, employment opportunities were more readily available and I took the position of Director of Audiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. I remained in this position until 1972 when I founded Auditec, Inc., a company devoted to quality auditory test recordings.
Conflict Between Audiology and Industry
I had been employed by Beltone Electronics Corporation for a few years when Hayes Newby was elected President of ASHA. I took it upon myself to write him a congratulatory letter on his election. (I think I did it because audiologists were seldom elected president of ASHA.)
Shortly after sending the letter, I received a reply, which, in essence, said, thank you for the good wishes, but I (Newby) have been meaning to write you for some time. He was Chair of the Committee on Ethics at the time of his election. He added, I believe it is unethical for you to be in Beltone’s exhibit booth during ASHA’s convention. He added further that I should cease manning Beltone’s booth. I replied that I acted as a resource (for audiometers primarily, since audiologists could not sell hearing aids at that time) and that I did not sell or take orders for audiometers. * I asked Newby to poll the committee relative to his decision. He did and subsequently informed me that the committee agreed with him.
I then requested an appeal to the Executive Board, which was granted. I met with the Board at the next ASHA convention. Newby was, by then, President. The new chair (dk) presented the Ethics Committee side and I presented my side.
The Board agreed with the Committee on Ethics and I was banned from the exhibit booth. One of the Board members told me later that they all felt that I was ethical, but that they didn’t want to allow me to be in the exhibit booth because it would establish a precedent and some “unethical behavior” from others might ensue. Frankly, I was glad to get out from manning the booth because it severely restricted my ability to go to sessions, etc.
Auditec of St. Louis
During my tenure at Northwestern University and Washington School of Medicine, I realized the need for commercially available tape-recorded test materials. I always thought there was a real need to have a source focused on products similar to what Auditec now offers. In fact, I had suggested this to Beltone while I was there, but they weren’t interested at that time.
So in 1971, I had the time and ability and I thought I’d take a shot at recording these materials, and 1972 Auditec was founded by myself and a partner. We made recordings in his basement on evenings and weekends and distributed the product from my home. By word of mouth the business picked up, and in time it became obvious that I would have to relinquish my position at Washington University and either devote myself full time to the business or let it drop. I bought out my partner in 1978, and thirty-six years later I am still having fun and successfully running Auditec.
*Paul LaBenz, Ed.D., an audiologist who worked for Maico for a very short time before Lee Watson’s untimely death in 1960, would not man Maico’s booth at the ASHA conventions. He sat in a hotel room where he demonstrated the new Maico clinical audiometer. He refused to name the price, saying that he didn’t know what it was.