The Scarlet Letter
(Comments and underline were added when this was received)
Barry Elpern, Ph.D. had the nerve to determine that as an ASHA certified audiologist, he would sell hearing aids – that this fit in with the “scope of practice” of an audiologist. After all, ASHA had already selectively exempted VA audiologists, so what was the difference? Were they better than he? It was also at this time, including a few years earlier, that some audiologists had decided to sell hearing aids and incurred the wrath of ASHA – being dropped from membership (the requirement of membership in ASHA in order to hold certification and practice as an audiologist has arisen again (ADA vs. ASHA), and was successfully challenged in court a number of years ago).
Soon after Dr. Elpern received the expulsion letter from ASHA, I received a phone call from Dr. Kenneth Johnson, Executive Secretary of ASHA, who said he would be in Minneapolis and had been requested by Dr. Parker (Ethical Practice Board – EPB) to visit with me and to inquire as to my activities at Telex. He said that this was a routine information gathering, and not judgmental. He mentioned also that he was visiting with other audiologists in similar employment situations so that ASHA could find out what it was that audiologists did in industry. (He would not mention who the others were, and I suspect there were none). I was the obvious ASHA target, especially with my Ph.D. and visibility.
We met at a suite that he had rented at The Radisson South (the most expensive hotel in Minneapolis at that time). It gave me an opportunity to see how organization leaders managed to spend our dues wisely. I never saw a hearing aid industry representative with such an elaborate and, I suspect, expensive room at that time. The meeting was three hours in length. The line of questioning was intended to dig up something that could be used against me – he kept rewording questions, obviously attempting to put words into my mouth that would be damaging. This bothered me because I had been trying to do some good – to give the hearing aid industry the type of input they needed – but which ASHA evidently did not want. I told him that I could only answer for myself, not for any other audiologist. I suspect that I was as evasive as I could be.
He requested additional information that was not in the initial request, and which should be included in a final written report sent directly to him, and nobody else (all of this information is taken from my notes which I took at the time and still have on file).
- Where did I fall into the business structure? I was asked to explain the Telex product areas, to identify my immediate bosses, who were Ansel Kleiman, President of Telex Communications, and Bob Alexander, Head of the Hearing Aid Division.
- How was I paid? He kept trying to imply that I was paid from commissions and tied to hearing aid sales, which was not the case – attempting to paint me as nothing more than an audiologist selling hearing aids for a manufacturing company. My salary was actually absorbed in the general operating expenses of Telex and I received 5 vacation days my first year.
- I was asked to list my duties. I was Director of Education, assisted with research and design of products, kept the engineers informed about developments made by audiologists, presented viewpoints, lectured, and wrote.
- I was to list the clients visited over the past year and detail the topics I had discussed with them. I should put this in a formal letter sent to him. I objected to this because I thought it was inappropriate to ask, and much of what I talked about was in confidence. Actually, much of it had to do with audiologists asking how they might become involved in hearing aid sales and remain an ASHA member, or to learn how to actually perform and manage hearing aid selection – basically, to learn about hearing aids.
- I was told to provide all the names of audiologists I had discussions with so that ASHA could check on their compliance with the Code of Ethics.
- I was to send copies of all writings distributed to anyone outside of Telex
- I was to send copies of all Telex Audiological Reports and all materials on which my name appears and which go to other than Telex employees or dealers
I was told to send the information to him directly and not to the ASHA Ethical Practice Board, because he was acting at their request. This sounded “fishy” and I found out later that the Ethical Practice Board members, except for the chair, were not even aware of this action. I also learned that some of the members of the Ethical Practice Board were actually giving seminars throughout the US and were being paid by the company whose products they were using in their presentations. However, because they were part of the ASHA “establishment” it seemed not to bother the EPB.
He then informed me of things that I could not do working for a hearing aid manufacturer, but which were not listed in the Code of Ethics:
- If Telex held an open house at a meeting, I could not attend.
- I could not be in, or even standing in the aisle in front of our company’s booth
- I could not visit any other company open house or booth. I should not even be seen in the doorway.
- I should not have contact with any ASHA member, regardless of how this might come about.
- It would be risky for me to visit any speech and hearing facility, even if invited, to lecture, to be shown the facilities, or to talk about what they were doing, even with friends that I had gone to school with or with students I had taught.
It was obvious that this meeting was an inquisition and was not meant to be constructive. It was intended to find even the faintest way to find me in violation of the ASHA Code of Ethics. And, adding salt to the wound, following the meeting, he had the nerve to ask me for a ride to the airport!
(Next Blog: The Inquisition – Conclusion)