Early Audiologists in Industry – Wayne Staab Part 4

Wayne Staab
July 29, 2012

A Major Obstacle to Early Audiologists in Industry – Or, Harassment With the Intent to Discredit


The ink on my agreement with Telex wasn’t even dry before the hatchet started to fall.  Telex, in keeping with their company policy related to hirings, had sent ASHA an employment opportunity description to be published in the ASHA Trends.

To this, ASHA sent a letter with a copy of the Code of Ethics, informing Telex to note Section C.1.(c) that relates to the use of one’s titles and accomplishments for the promotion of any commercial product.  The letter contained the following paragraph:

“Some of our members are employed by commercial firms in acceptable frameworks.  Where such employment is acceptable under our Code, the Committee on Ethical Practice has determined that they are not using their titles and accomplishments in the promotion of a product.  I might add that there are many individuals employed by commercial firms who formerly were members who no longer are.”

This statement was disingenuous.  “Many” individuals employed by commercial firms?  I guess that seven individuals constituted “many.”  Recall that four had previously held ASHA certification but had been forced to give it up so they were no longer members (Delk, ScottGriffing, and Curran).  I was under investigation as a member, and Bob Briskey, an ASHA certified member, indicated that he was not.  Therefore, my conclusion is that “some members” referred to me at that time.  Bill Carver had actually left Beltone before this so this letter did not pertain to him.

The letter to Telex from ASHA continued….

”It is difficult to tread the line, but it appeared to Dr. Spahr from a review of the information you submitted, that individuals accepting your employment would be violating our Code.  You are perfectly free, of course, to develop and submit a job description which we would review but I don’t know that you want to go to all that trouble just for publication of an availability notice in our ASHA Trends.”  This was signed by Kenneth O. Johnson, Ph.D., Executive Secretary, July 28, 1972.

Dr. Spahr’s involvement was unclear because he did not show up on the letterhead as having any official position within ASHA at that time.  The VP for Standards and Ethics was Frederick Garbee, M.A.  It is possible, however, that Dr. Spahr was head of the Ethical Practice Board within Garbee’s administrative authority.  However, I never had any communications from him.  They came primarily from Kenneth O. Johnson, the ASHA Executive Secretary.

When it Rains, it Pours

Eleven months after I became employed by Telex, I received a letter from the Ethical Practice Affairs Coordinator requesting information relative to my position at Telex – that this request was routine and not judgmental (I will let you decide), but to do this ASAP.  The information requested was:

  1. What specific services do you perform for Telex?
  2. Do you lecture on products?  If so please provide copies of sample lectures.
  3. Describe your five most recent contacts with audiologists and what transpired at these meetings.  Please identify the audiologists contacted.

I resented the request, especially point 3!  Had a complaint been filed?  Why were they requesting this information at this time?  Would they agree to send me the names of other audiologists checked since January 1, 1972?  I had already held dual certification for almost 10 years and had never been asked this information, so what was the motivation for the request at this time?  Was this a legitimate request, was this just a way for the “elite” of ASHA to force individuals into their concept of ethics, or a way to flex their muscles and not give any legitimacy to the hearing aid industry and personnel representing it?

The Decision

One of my work-related activities included presenting invited lectures on various hearing aid-related topics at meetings conducted by organizations, including audiological meetings.  I was offered a ride back to Knoxville from Gatlinburg, TN by Bob Briskey, who had also been invited to speak to the same meeting of the Southern Audiology Society.  On our drive we talked about the ASHA request and Bob advised me to “play their silly game” so that I could remain an ASHA member with certification.  We both thought that having audiologists active in the hearing aid industry was a direction that ASHA should embrace, rather than work so hard to purge.  We figured that if we could remain ASHA members working in the hearing aid industry, that in time the organization would come to their senses and realize that this was something good for audiology– not bad.

What Was Ethical/Unethical?

In July of 1973, about a month after the request by ASHA asking for what I thought was inappropriate information, I received another request because I had not yet responded.  What I found interesting was that at the time there seemed to be more significant fish to fry within the ASHA membership, and which created even greater ethical problems.  For example:

  • Almost 1000 members of ASHA (of 18,000) were engaged in clinical practice without certification {{2}}[[2]] ASHA, July, 1973, p. 381[[2]].
  • Three fourths of the states were functioning in violation of the Code of Ethics.
  • ASHA had sanctioned some audiologists to sell hearing aids in violation of the Code of Ethics (those employed by the Veterans Administration).
  • Changes were made in the Code of Ethics without membership notification.
  • In the state of Minnesota, where I lived, there was no Educational Training Board, and the M.A. programs in audiology were not accredited, even though accreditation was voluntary.

For almost two months from the time I received the first letter I contemplated what I would do, and as a result had not complied with the request.  I then received another letter saying:

“Wayne – When I returned after seeing you in New Orleans and learned this inquiry had been made.  The Ethical Practice Board is reviewing all such positions and I hope we will hear from you.”  Ken (Kenneth Johnson, ASHA Executive Secretary)

This was interesting because as I referred to earlier, the only two certified audiologists working for hearing aid manufacturers at that time were myself and Bob Briskey.  As a result, it was obvious that “all” was a massive exaggeration and seems to have been part of a determined effort by ASHA to ensure their personal biases that audiologists would not be employed in the hearing aid industry and functioning as audiologists.

(Next Blog – The Scarlet Letter)

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