Robert E. Sandlin, Ph.D. (May 3, 2012)

Wayne Staab
May 7, 2012

My scheduled blog related to adaptive feedback methods is delayed for a week in order to report on a sad event, the passing away on May 3, 2012 of a good friend and colleague, Dr. Robert E. Sandlin of San Diego, CA.

Remembering Robert E. Sandlin – An all-around good guy

All of the superlatives that have been used to describe this good friend and colleague to many of us in the discipline of hearing can be contained in a short description that everyone understands – Bob was an all-around good guy.

Bob, being a WWII Navy Veteran who piloted landing craft, was known to utilize naval analogies and jargon into his introductions and presentations.  The reason, I suspect, is because the terms and their usage could be clearly understood.  And like all good ship commanders, he stayed and cared for everyone until the very end.  He made certain that everything was taken care of before he left.

In naval lore, some believe that the Captain is responsible for the overall safety of the people and contents, as well as the vessel itself.  Therefore, there would be shame in failing to protect these, and if such should happen, it is this shame of having failed to protect that makes the Captain go down with the ship.  The unfortunate consequence of this action is that this would be pointless because of the many years of experience and training it takes for a person to become a great Captain.  Bob was a great Captain, and unfortunately for all of us, in this case, he went down with the ship.

International Hearing Aid Seminar (IHAS)

In June of 2011 I talked with Bob’s wife, Joann, and asked if she thought that Bob might like to write something based on his many years of organizing and running the International Hearing Aid Seminar in San Diego, CA.  It was this meeting, perhaps more than any other at the time, that resulted in many of us who worked with hearing aids becoming familiar, and friends with each other.  Bob said that he would be delighted to leave some of this legacy, but tired easily and was unable to type.  So, he made arrangements to dictate to his wife Joann, who then typed his messages.  It is fitting that these be shared at this time.

Bob’s Comments

There are so many ways that I could express my memories of IHAS.  Because they are so numerous, I have listed only a few that seem to “stick out” for some reason or another.  Are these the primary and most important events from those 21 years?  I think not, but for some reason they seem to stand out to me.  However, if this were an extended conversation I might present a completely different set of events.

Followng is a very short recounting of the interesting recollections related to the meeting that stuck with me over that period of time:

The first seminar was held in 1970 and continued for 21 consecutive years.  There were only 67 attendees at the first seminar – all hearing aid dispensers.  In following years the seminar grew in importance and audiologists started to attend, along with the growing number of hearing aid dispensers.  The meeting eventually grew to 300 attendees.

Ray Gillies from Scotland attended a penthouse party dressed in his Scottish kilt.  He was alone, just sitting in a corner drinking his sherry.  I finally asked how he was doing.  He said, “Bob, I think I am drunk!”

Two people who were a great help to the seminar were Geary McCandless and Darrel Teter.  Their speeches were especially entertaining and informative.

Earl Harford was giving a lecture that was disdainful to hearing aid dispensers.  The dispensers were incensed and argued with him.  It was the first time in history that hearing aid dispensers took an audiologist to task at a formal meeting.

The most pleasant thing about the IHAS was that it was a successful effort to bring together audiologists and dispensers.  At the first meeting there were only dispensers.  Over time the number of audiologists increased significantly.  At first the audiologists sat on one side of the aisle and the dispensers on the other.  In time, however, the dispensers and the audiologists would sit side by side.  In addition, they actually would talk to each other.  The conclusion drawn from this is that two disciplines can meet to share common knowledge about hearing aids.

Another episode involved Aram Glorig, M.D., who was giving a lecture when a hotel staff member handed him a note.  The note said “Dr. Glorig, please pay the rent of your hotel room or we shall have you incarcerated.”  Aram did not know what to do, but he certainly looked frustrated.  No one knew at the time that this was only a joke being played on him.

Another thing that comes to mind was somewhat embarrassing at the time.  We had a panel of hearing aid company presidents all of whom were well known.  During the question and answer portion it was evident that Ken Dahlberg was tipsy and gave unusual replies to questions asked.

We were most pleased that the number of foreign audiologists attending was growing rapidly.  We were especially pleased when a member of the Japanese contingent asked to present a paper.  However, only one thing was wrong.  No one could understand his accent.  We assumed that he was speaking in English, but we couldn’t tell.

From the very beginning of the IHAS some well-known audiologists presented papers.   James Jerger (who gave one of the first papers), Holly Hosford-Dunn, Jim Curran, Sharon Brooks, Jerry Northern, Aram Glorig, Robert Sweetow (who gave one of the last), and many others too numerous to recall.  There was one group of speakers that served as a basic core.  These included Chuck Berlin, Darrel Teter, Geary McCandless, Wayne Staab, Cy Libby, Dave Preves, and Knox Brooks.  It was also this meeting that introduced many hearing aid engineers, physicians, and traditional hearing aid dispensers onto the lecturing circuit.


Editor’s Note:  It was the International Hearing Aid Seminar, more than any other activity, that initiated the real sharing of hearing aid related information among the professionals.

Editor’s Personal Note:

Bob and I met in 1973 and established a great friendship based on professional issues, common friends, and personal interests.

Over the years we have authored multiple chapters for each other’s books.  It was almost impossible to refuse his requests to write a chapter, and then later to revise the chapter as well.  He was the type of person you just couldn’t say “no” to.

Through the years we skied together, visited churches for their art and history, got soaked (wet that is) at Busch Gardens, and in all these years, many were not aware that Bob did not indulge in alcoholic beverages.  However, at his 80th birthday party, he took the unusual step to have one, but I don’t think he finished it.   I believe that I had the privilege of playing with him in his last round of golf when he and Joann stayed with us at our home outside of St. George, UT about 3 or 4 years ago.  What amazed me was his desire to play, to understand his physical limitations without complaining, and still maintain a great sense of humor.  As an example, he told me that if he couldn’t get the golf ball to stay on the tee after about a minute, that I had permission to place it there for him.

I think that most people got to know Bob best through his management, along with Don Krebs, of the International Hearing Aid Seminar, held in San Diego.  For a long time the meeting was held at the Hotel Islandia, right on the water’s edge.  This was located in Mission Bay and was owned by PSA (Pacific Southwest Airlines) and Bob and Don had the Penthouse suite, which they opened up each night for small attendee gatherings.  For those of us from the sticks, this was luxury personified.  The views were outstanding, but the bedroom arrangement was always the center of discussion – it had the best views with large windows and the large bed was in the center of this very large room.  It actuality made for a very good meeting room, giving way to comments about the day’s presentations and on other topics related to hearing aids.  To be invited to the “Penthouse” made one feel special.  And, to be considered as one of the “regular faculty” at this meeting was a distinct privilege.

I will miss Bob.  But, so will everybody else who he touched, influenced, and encouraged.  Yes, he was indeed an all-around good guy.

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed this stroll down memory lane. I always enjoyed Bob Sandlin’s talks at the various meetings. He will be missed.

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