Modern Hearing Aids and Pre-Fitting Testing: Interview with H. Gustav Mueller, PhD
Douglas L. Beck, AuD, spoke with Dr. Mueller about his new textbook Modern Hearing Aids, Pre-fitting Testing and Selection Considerations.
Academy: Good morning, Gus. Congratulations on yet another new textbook! This one is titled Modern Hearing Aids, Pre-fitting Testing and Selection Considerations (Plural Publishing) and it is an excellent volume. I want to be sure to mention your talented and very bright co-authors Ruth Bentler and Todd Ricketts. Let’s start with a quick review as to what each author contributed?
Mueller: Sure thing. The fact that my name is listed first doesn’t have much significance. Note that we are listed as authors, not editors, and indeed all chapters in the book were co-written. We each took the lead for getting out the first draft of different chapters, but we then had four more subsequent drafts with round-robin editing, which resulted in a lot of additions and corrections. By the time it went to press, it was pretty hard to tell who had written what. I know that some incredibly profound sentences of mine ended up on the cutting-room floor at Iowa and Vanderbilt.
Academy: Well, that often happens with incredibly profound verbosity! So then, is it fair to say the three of you have similar writing styles?
Mueller: We’re somewhat different. Todd and Ruth use more journal references and I use more exclamation points! But like fine red wines, the blending of three can be better than any of the single component varietals on their own.
Academy: Fair enough! What about when the three of you disagreed on a particular teaching point?
Mueller: You know, that didn’t really happen. The three of us think pretty much the same. If you simply follow what has been carefully thought out and published in evidence-based best practice guidelines, the selection and fitting of hearing aids is not as debatable as some people try to make it.
Academy: I have to agree. I think the main disagreement is often based on people not wanting to do what we all know has to be done, to maximally and efficiently test and fit patients. But I digress. Is this a “standalone” text, or part of a new series?
Mueller: It’s both. When we started this project a few years back, we were going to put everything into one book, but we quickly realized that to include the content that we believed was important, a single text was not practical. We’d either have a book of 1,500 or more pages, or we’d have to leave out several things that we considered important. We gave considerable thought to how we might break out all the different hearing aid topics—which topic in what book? How many books are needed?
Academy: And in the end you decided?
Mueller: Although several different approaches probably would have worked, we decided to organize the books in a time-ordered manner. That is, starting when patients walk in the door, and ending when they complete their post-fitting self-assessment surveys. This tends to be the method used in hearing aid fitting guidelines. So what you have in this first book (Modern Hearing Aids: Pre-Fitting Testing and Selection Considerations) is what happens up to the point that you select the appropriate signal processing and features. So if your interest is in determining patient needs, the testing that goes on before the fitting, hearing aid styles and associated earmold plumbing—it’s a standalone book. If your interest is hearing aid fitting “A to Z,” then the other books in the series are important, too.
Academy: You say “other books.” How many will there be and how are the topics divided?
Mueller: There are two more books on the way. Book two is about components, digital features, and algorithms. Book three is verification measures (e.g., probe-mic testing) and validation (e.g., real-world outcomes). Book three probably will be released before Book two, primarily because we want to save the writing on processing and features until last, as this topic can change significantly from year to year.
Academy: Very good. So then, what makes this first book unique?
Mueller: Several things. As I mentioned, it’s not a series of chapters pasted together, but something written by the three of us. I think that that enhances organization and readability. We wanted the book to be welcoming to university faculty and their students. Our goal was to include not just reference information, but tools supported by research and clinical experience, presented in a way that was accessible to clinical students with little experience in the field.
We also wanted the book to be a handy companion for busy clinicians—a friendly resource where they could quickly find the critical information needed for the next patient. So it’s part reference source, part how-to-do-it handbook. Finally, we saw no reason to hold back our opinions, so you’ll see them tossed in quite frequently, probably more so than in most other hearing aid books. We even have a call-out identified as “On the Soapbox,” for when we really want to make a point.
Academy: Is there one chapter that is your favorite, or maybe one that you think would be the best for students and practicing audiologists to read and understand?
Mueller: I, of course, like them all, but the one that probably stands out is Chapter 5 on speech recognition measures. It also happens to be the longest. In this chapter, we review 15 or more speech tests and provide not only background information, but test materials, step-by-step procedures for conducting the test, score sheets and interpretation guidelines. We hope this will be helpful for students and busy clinicians. I know I sure could have used this information during my clinic days.
Academy: And was there an “On the Soapbox” call out in this chapter?
Mueller: Oh yes. We first made the radical statement that if you’re going to do monosyllabic speech testing in quiet, you have to do it right—no half lists and never use monitored live voice. Then, we really got crazy, and went on to say there is little reason to do speech testing at all if you don’t use a test that includes background noise. I know, I know, that’s all Audiology 101, but the message doesn’t seem to be getting across.
Academy: I see there’s a section called Endnotes. What’s that all about?
Mueller: Well, while digging through massive amounts of material in writing this book, we sometimes unearthed tidbits that were maybe not quite relevant enough to include in the chapter, but yet too good to toss aside. You’ll find these in the back of the book, which we’re calling Endnotes. I’m probably more fond of this section than my co-authors. But really, who doesn’t want to know about such critical things in audiology as who played “Sheepshead” over lunch at Northwestern, who designed the “Y” on the mountain overlooking BYU, or how the Save-the-Word-Laud Web site impacted speech audiometry?
Academy: With that, I think I’ll add my own “Endnotes.” Gus, as always, it’s a pleasure working with you! You’re one of the rare people in our profession who understands (and exemplifies) the importance of knowledge combined with entertainment and comedy—and I totally appreciate that! I believe this first volume in the Modern Hearing Aid series is comprehensive, extremely well written, logical and pragmatic. I would urge our colleagues to review this text not just for the purpose of training new clinicians, but to also review the status quo (for those of us in practice for more than a decade a two) with regard to this critically important topic. Thanks for your time, Gus!
Mueller: Thank you, too, Doug.
H. Gustav Mueller, PhD, is a professor of audiology at Vanderbilt University, senior audiology consultant for Siemens Hearing Instruments, and contributing editor for Audiology Online.
Douglas L. Beck, AuD, Board Certified in Audiology, is the Web content editor for the American Academy of Audiology.