Interview with Dr. James Hall

Interview with Dr. James Hall

August 30, 2014 Interviews

Dr. Hall received a bachelor's degree in biology from American International College before pursuing a master's degree in speech pathology from Northwestern, and later a PhD in audiology from Baylor College of Medicine.  He currently holds appointments at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, Salus University, and Nova Southeastern University, and he is also currently teaching a class at University of Florida.  He manages James W Hall III Audiology Consulting LLC.  His main interests are in electrophysiology, APD, tinnitus/hyperacusis, and tele-health.

His new book, Introduction to Audiology Today, from Pearson Publishing, is a comprehensive, up to date overview of the state of audiology.  The book covers the history and development of the profession, the fundamentals of audiology, testing, and rehabilitation and counseling.  The book is designed to be a first stop in researching an unfamiliar topic, making it a very readable and useful resource in an audiology student's library.  Each chapter explains the theoretical aspects of the topic, and many chapters also include clinical applications and examples to help students see the practical application of the material.

Dr. Hall agreed to take time out of his busy schedule to talk to Kevin Seitz, SAA Board Member and SAA Education Committee Chair, about the new book, about some topics of interest to audiology students, and some issues facing the profession.

Seitz: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today and approaching SAA with the idea for this feature. I think this will be very beneficial for the students to read.

Dr. Hall: Well I hope so, and I appreciate your time and willingness to take this on.

Seitz: There are a number of other textbooks available that cover the many areas/subfields of audiology, perhaps most notably Handbook of Clinical Audiology by Dr. Katz. What inspired you to write this book?

Dr. Hall: I've been preparing my entire career to write this book. I wrote this book to motivate and inspire undergrads primarily to consider audiology as a career option. There are a couple of other undergraduate books, but none have been written by clinicians who have been in audiology a while, and none of them are really up to date. For example, the Martin and Clark undergraduate book, Introduction to Audiology, is a fine book, but it's been around since 1975, and it's never been overhauled or updated. I wanted an up to date, comprehensive overview of the profession and what audiologists do.

I've written mostly graduate texts. To be honest, that has been easier than writing this book. The reviewers, who were mostly instructors of audiology, and they kept telling me, "No, you've got to simplify it and define each term."  The beauty of that for audiology students is that it's quite readable.

Seitz: You just made one point, and this isn't something that I planned on asking you, but since it came up, I'd like to get your thoughts. You mentioned that one goal was to inspire undergraduates to consider audiology as a career path. Do you think that current audiology students can or should get the word out about audiology?

Dr. Hall: That should be one of the core missions of SAA. The average college student and the average college advisor knows about every other health profession. Even high school students are familiar with other health professions. We need to systematically go to high school and undergraduate students and make them aware of audiology as a career. When I went to Northwestern, most of my colleagues were not from a communicative disorder background. I, for example, had a background in biology. I think if we start expanding the pool of students, it will help spread the word and be very fruitful. The SAA is a great group to spearhead that effort. One of the keys to the success of audiology as a profession is getting a broader pool of students to consider audiology, but they need to know about it to consider it.

Seitz: Your book includes a chapter on the history and development of audiology. You were fortunate enough to work alongside Dr. Carhart during your time at Northwestern and Dr. Jerger while at Baylor College of Medicine. Based on your experience, would you care to comment what students can gain from working with established researchers and clinicians aside from academic and clinical knowledge?

Dr. Hall: I often joke when I talk with my students that they are great-grandchildren of Carhart from an audiology genealogy point of view. When I was at NU, I was a speech pathology graduate student, so I didn't interact much with Carhart, except for a couple of classes and to greet him when he walked into the building. Dr. Jerger, though, was definitely my mentor, and, there were many other well-known audiologists who were inspiring to my generation.  Audiology wouldn’t be a profession if it weren't for them.

The profession is constantly changing.  One thing students or new audiologists can learn from leaders are principals of being successful in any career, and in our case audiology. I learned from Dr. Jerger that publishing is critical--you are what you write. I also learned that there is an international community for audiology, and we can be part of that development. The future of audiology is entirely dependent on research--not that every audiologist needs to be a researcher, but we can't give that up to any other profession.

Seitz: One aspect of the book that I particularly enjoyed is that it covers everything from the more abstract (psychoacoustics, physics of sound, etc.) to testing and rehabilitation. Would you say that integration and synthesis of these topics is a goal of yours for students using this book?

Dr. Hall: I definitely had that in mind writing. The challenge was writing a comprehensive book that wasn't too long, but also a book that was very up to date. I take the reader from how audiology started through basic concepts underlying audiology. The book then flows smoothly into more basic tests. I also wanted to include information that isn't easy for students, like masking. And I wanted to show how diagnostic information leads to logical decisions for rehabilitation. I wanted to describe what to do with an individual patient from the time you introduce yourself through hearing assessment and then how you manage the patient with rehabilitation. I didn't really feel like there was another book available that took that approach. My policy is always to write a book that I wish I had had as a student. We don't write books to make money in audiology. I do it because audiology students need that information from a single source.

Seitz: While we're on the topic of integration/synthesis, your book also includes tips for applying the material in a clinical setting. Do you have any tips for students when it comes to bridging the gap between the classroom and the clinic?

Dr. Hall: I didn't really get into the concept of clinical simulation. I do think the future of audiology education includes developing very evidence-based clinical simulation programs and devices. You have to do things 1000's of times before you get good at it. The real gap isn't learning facts; it's making clinical decisions and forming clinical knowledge. Practice and clinical exposure is the best way to do that after acquiring foundational knowledge.

Seitz: Many students struggle to find good resources for preparing for the Praxis. This book seems to cover most of the material necessary for passing the exam. Do you have any advise for students on how to use the book in their exam preparations?

Dr. Hall: It's interesting. I certainly didn't write the book for that purpose. But while I was writing, I had some student helpers. Those students ended up getting complementary copies of the book. They came back and said to me, "You know as I was reading the book I was preparing to take the Praxis, and I basically read the book and took the exam and did very well, because everything was presented very simply and it had everything I needed to know."  My advice to students would be to quickly review the book...basically sit back, and every night read a chapter. The Praxis isn't impossible to pass; you just need to be well prepared, so I really think that would do it. I'm looking forward to getting feedback from more people who have read the book and taken the Praxis, so I can see what kind of correlation there is between the information in the book and the information on the exam.

Seitz: Just an aside, I've already taken the Praxis, so I wasn't able to use this book in my preparations. After looking at the book, though, I wish that I had had it, because there aren't many good resources for preparing.

Dr. Hall: Many books are at such a high level that they aren't very useful. In this book every principal of audiology is systematically explained and examples are given so that they're very clear. I can't really think of any principals that might be covered in the Praxis that aren't in the book.

Seitz: What do you believe are some of the biggest challenges to students as they prepare to take the Praxis? Do you feel your book addresses any of these challenges?

Dr. Hall: I tried to include in the book very current information right up through 2013, when I finished writing it. I think one advantage is that the Praxis is updated periodically, so reading dated information wouldn't give you all the information you need. A third of the book is on rehabilitation, and a lot of textbooks are on the diagnostic side. So if you really wanted a resource on all aspects of rehab and counseling, the book would serve you well in that respect. Also, there's no test technique that isn't included. So if you forgot what the Stenger was, for example, you'd encounter that in the book and understand it.

Seitz: Your book also lists an online resource for students at your website. What resources are available on the site that might be of benefit to students?

Dr. Hall: On my website, there are many articles of mine or coauthored articles. I certainly think that some of those would be valuable. I've got a lot of basic articles, and a lot of PowerPoint presentations so people can review them. It's mostly diagnostic and a lot on early identification of hearing loss. I think there are many ways to prepare for the Praxis, so I wouldn't rely on any one source, but there are resources on my website that would be helpful for certain content areas.

Seitz: Many current resources designed for preparing for the exam are 'one trick ponies' in the sense that they don't have much use for anything other than exam prep. How do you feel your book could serve as a supplement or addition to the audiology student's library, in addition to being an aide to Praxis prep?

Dr. Hall: I think it would be one of the earliest sources of information you check. My book would be useful if you read it and said, " I'm quite familiar with most of this information, but he's introducing some particular topics that I don't know much about it. Now I have some of the basic information and terminology, so now I'm going to go off into one of these more graduate level textbooks and get more in depth on a few topics."

Seitz: Are there any other resources available to students for exam preparation that you would endorse?

Dr. Hall: I am a strong proponent of original resources. I would strongly encourage students to go to peer reviewed journals. Many textbooks are edited. For example Handbook of Clinical Audiology is second or third hand in that Dr. Katz didn't write most of it, authors he invited did. In turn, those authors cite original published articles. So there are inconsistencies and changes in style in such books. The best way to get the most accurate information is to go directly to the original articles. I think that's one of the best strategies for students to study and get to know something. Nowadays using a computer and internet, you can do that with search engines from anywhere. Sooner or later you need to go back to the original source and evaluate that information yourself, rather than relying on someone else to synthesize it for you.

Seitz: You recently became a member of the Accreditation Commission for Audiology Education (ACAE) Board of Directors. Do you have anything to say to students about the ACAE and the importance of accreditation to their education?

Dr. Hall: I'm very happy you asked me that. I've served on the ABA board, but I feel this ACAE commitment is particularly important. As a profession, we've got to own the accreditation of our graduate programs. We can't rely on another profession to tell us how to educate our students. I'm going to do everything possible as a board member to get as many schools as possible to adopt ACAE accreditation, both here and abroad. It is essential to the success of audiology for ACAE to define education of audiologists.

Seitz: Do you have any parting words to students (words of encouragement, advice, etc.)?

Dr. Hall: I would encourage students to learn as much as you can while you are a student, get to know leaders in audiology, learn as much as you can about and from them, get the best 4th year experience you can, and always challenge yourself. Don't take a placement, for example, to stay close to home. Once you graduate, make your career. Don't take a job, make a job. There are incredible opportunities for audiologists. Take a chance, be creative, and be innovative. Develop a career where you're in charge and you can feel that you are making a real contribution to your patients.

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