My Audiology Genealogy

Stumbling into Northwestern University was one of the luckiest breaks in my life. The students were top notch, the academic setting stimulating and, best of all, I was among a Who's Who in Speech Pathology and Audiology. I was assigned reception desk duty to earn my stipend. Each day I had the opportunity to greet the notables who entered the then new Francis Searle Building, including the Father of Audiology Raymond Carhart (shown here during that approximate time period).


In the first fall semester I took Introduction to Audiology, a mandatory course for masters students in speech pathology. The course was taught by the entertaining and very competent Earl Harford. Our textbook was the third edition of Davis and Silverman's Hearing and Deafness.


That semester I discovered what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, as evidenced by the my extensive highlighting and notes in the margins of this well-worn textbook. During the next year, I took a few more audiology courses taught by Earl Harford, Tom Tillman, Doug Olsen, Noel Matkin, with a guest lecture occasionally by Dr. Carhart. However, since all of my funding was in support of a masters degree in speech pathology, even though my mind was made up about audiology I remained in the career closet for almost two years.

One of my tasks at the reception desk was to file job announcements in audiology and speech pathology. There was a little lounge near the desk where guests to the building could wait for their hosts, and students could hang out. Several drawers in a metal file cabinet in the lounge were devoted to career information. I would insert letters announcing positions, and sometimes accompanying flyers, into folders which were then filed by state, from Alabama to Wyoming. Filing information in the Texas folder, I began to think about moving to the Lone Star State following graduation. Missy and I took an inexpensive spring break to the Florida panhandle in spring of the 2nd year of the masters program. The weather was incredible. Returning to a March blizzard in Chicago, those pictures of Texas palm trees began to look very inviting.


The lucky breaks continued. One day on my way to class I ran into Doris Johnson (an early leader in learning disabilities), and spontaneously asked her for advice on where to go in Texas for a position in speech pathology. She unequivocally recommended Dr. James Jerger's program at Baylor College of Medicine and Methodist Hospital in Houston. Finding a very good typewriter in someone's office, I prepared a letter for Dr. Jerger asking if he had any openings for a CFY in speech pathology. A few weeks later I excitedly ripped open an envelope from Baylor College of Medicine only to learn that there were no CFY positions (but "good luck"). Less than a month later (in about February 1973 during my final semester at NU) while working at the reception desk one day I heard an overhead page: "Jay Hall, please pick up line 1. You have a long-distance call ... from Dr. James Jerger." Glancing around on my way to a telephone I was amazed to notice that everyone within sight was staring at me, frozen in their tracks.

The call was brief. Dr. Jerger announced that 3 speech pathologists had just resigned to go into private practice. I'm deleting many expletives in this sanitized version of the conversation. Could I come to Houston for an interview sometime soon? All travel expenses will be reimbursed after the trip. Yes sir. Of course, sir. Thank you Dr. Jerger!

I couldn't wait to tell Missy about the call and the upcoming trip. Having no money to buy a cheap airline ticket, I borrowed some from a good friend, the late Paul Blanton. Paul was an ordained Methodist minister pursuing a graduate degree in religion. He came from a large and well known long-time Texas family in Houston. By August of 1973 we were moving our meager belongs to Houston where I began work as a speech pathologist for an annual salary of $9400!

About 8 months after I had been working diligently in the speech pathology clinic, mostly with voice and aphasia patients, Dr. Jerger came by to meet spontaneously with we three novice speech pathologists. We were building our clinical practices, but none of us were at 100% capacity yet.


Walking out the door, Dr. Jerger said it was up to us to decide who would be spending some time in audiology. He probably knew what our decision would be. Even though I was officially a speech pathologist, I'd been attending some of the evening audiology conferences and sampling from the steady stream of articles on impedance and diagnostic audiometry Jim was publishing during those years. With the door to the speech pathology office now closed, I turned to face my two speech pathology colleagues ... Peggy and Paula. They both looked like they'd just seen a ghost. Almost in synchrony they managed to stammer "N-n-not m-m-me!"

Thanks to Craig Dunkel, beginning in the spring of 1974 I happily spent each morning in the audiology clinic, mostly performing impedance measurements on every patient that walked through the door. My supervisor in the audiology clinic, Deborah Hayes, was one of several audiology students from Northwestern who Dr. Jerger had hired in the summer of 1973. Now attendance at the daily audiology conference was a must, as was regular appearances at Otolaryngology Grand Rounds. My evenings were blissfully passed re-reading Hearing and Deafness, and any other audiology book I could lay hands on. I devoured Dr. Jerger's Modern Audiology (2nd edition) which was published just in time to feed my new audiology appetite. Another bit of luck ... Dr. Jerger and I had in common a long and strong interest in sailing.

In fact, the first boat I bought and sailed in Texas had years earlier been Jim's first sailboat. Missy and our first son Jason spent many a pleasant day, and also a few harrowing days (for Missy at least) on the modest vessel.

Briefly summarizing the next 5 years, while completing my CFY in speech pathology I took some courses in the short-lived audiology masters program at Baylor College of Medicine. My time in the audiology clinic gradually increased to all day each day. Soon, with enough course hours for certification in audiology (remember, I already had a masters degree in SLP), I was completing my CFY in audiology. Also during this period (1974-1976) I proposed, designed, and finished several clinical research projects required academic credit. These resulted in publications combining my background in speech pathology with my new career in audiology (see CV). Then, continuing to work full time in the audiology clinic (including work by myself a brand new well equipped clinic in the actual medical school building) I applied for a slot in the new audiology Ph.D. program at Baylor College of Medicine, and began to take two courses. Fellow Ph.D. students during that time period included Deborah Hayes, Lois Sutton Anthony, Maureen Hanley, and Bill Keith (from New Zealand). By 1977 I was a full-time PhD student (and still working 20 hours at the Neurosensory Center clinic, plus another 4 hours with Russell Jacobe, a local otolaryngologist).

Working every day and most every night for the next two years, I successfully defended my dissertation on the topic of Effect of Aging on Ipsilateral versus Contralateral Acoustic Reflex Amplitude. As an aside, within the next 3 years I managed to squeeze no less than 5 peer-reviewed publications out of the Ph.D. project, most of them appearing in international journals. The research project methodology required simultaneously recording ipsilateral and contralateral acoustic reflex data with custom laboratory instrumentation developed by Dr. Jerger. At the heart of the system was a now ancient but then state-of-the-art DEC 8 computer. I never would have finished the dissertation research without the regular generous help of a colleague and friend, the late Larry Mauldin.


Larry somehow kept the temperamental computer and interface with multiple peripheral components connected by hundreds of colorful wires. You can read a brief tribute to Larry in the beginning of my Handbook of Otoacoustic Emissions. On a hot and humid day in August 1979, I left my colleagues and friends at Baylor College of Medicine and in Houston. This time in a bigger UHAUL truck, and with Missy and our first child Jason (plus a cat), I traveled to the University of Maryland for my first faculty position (now at a salary of $21,000!). Institutional affiliations thereafter are summarized in my CV.


James W. Hall III       |       jwhall3phd@gmail.com