An Interview with Dr. Jason Galster
Friday evening, reservations set at a restaurant just north of Hollywood in Studio City called ‘Vegetable’ catching up with an old friend, an audiology celebrity, Jason Galster.
Amit: Hi Jason, good to see you again. How are you doing?
Jason: Hi Amit, I’m happy we had a chance to sit down together here in Los Angeles!
Amit: The last time we met was in April, 2018, at the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) Convention in Nashville. You have some history in Nashville right?
Jason: That’s right. Nashville was home for five years while finishing my Ph.D. at Vanderbilt. During the last AAA conference, Vanderbilt staff and faculty welcomed the alumni back to town with a reception and invited the conference attendees for a tour of the Bill Wilkerson facilities. It felt good to be back and I was thrilled to see thousands of audiologists enjoying Nashville.
Amit: I recall reading some of your work about directional microphones at Vanderbilt. Some of that work was done with Dr. Todd Ricketts. How did that experience mold you into the audiologist you are today?
Jason: Working with Dr. Ricketts over those years was a formative experience. At that time, adult research in directional microphones was maturing but there were still substantial gaps in our pediatric understanding, particularly among school-aged children. A number of our projects focused on unraveling and ultimately proving the utility of directional microphones during the daily lives of school-aged children. This technical focus and some additional time spent in Vanderbilt’s electrical engineering department cemented my personal interest in technology development and (importantly) taught me how to communicate easily with audiologists and engineers.
Amit: It might be news to some readers that you’ve followed me to live in Los Angeles, CA and changed your focus from hearing aids to cochlear implants. I’ve always been interested in the difference between Class 2 and Class 3 medical devices, what does this mean for new technology development?
Jason: Great question and a complex topic. The FDA regulates medical devices with a keen eye to patient safety. In the case of cochlear implants, the components include an electrically active implant that is placed surgically and stimulated by an external sound processor. For apparent reasons, the implantable and active elements of the cochlear implant elevate it to Class 3. Hearing aids, in comparison are regulated as a Class 2 medical device. With regard to technology development, cochlear implants move at a different pace from hearing aids, this difference is a byproduct of the increased rigor, documentation, and constant eye to safety that is required in the development of an implantable medical device.
(Waitress brings our food. Jason ordered the corn cakes with fava beans and kale... I ordered the eggplant lasagna, no kale in sight.)
Amit: This looks delicious! Speaking of delicious…I have this book on my shelf called ‘Audiology Treatment ‘(first edition) written by Michael Valente, Holly Hosford-Dunn and Ross Roeser. Recently, a third edition was released, authored by…you! What was your inspiration for taking on such a big project?
Jason: Firstly, I need to thank Dr. Valente for the kind invitation to take over his role as editor for this text book. I had one book under my belt but it was research-focused and authored by myself and Dr. Katherine Stevens. For this text book, I was fortunate to recruit fifteen talented authors who were generous enough to share their knowledge of audiologic treatments for hearing loss across fifteen chapters. The range of content is impressive, spanning historic knowledge and introducing some of today’s most recent scientific and clinical findings. (Is it possible to list chapters and authors in a call out?)
Amit: With the ever-changing landscape of audiology treatment, I feel this is a compelling purchase for audiologists. Why do you think an audiologist should purchase this book?
Jason: The target audience for this book is the audiologist in training, this might be an undergraduate student in communication disorders or an Au.D. student entering their first year of study. The content spans topics fundamental to the audiologic treatment of hearing loss. Concepts can be bucketed into five categories, each containing several chapters: Motivating the Treatment of Hearing Loss, Modern Hearing Aid Technologies, The Prescription of Hearing Aids, Implantable Hearing Solutions, and Hearing Assistive and Protective Technology.
More specifically, the material includes a review hearing aid hardware components, techniques for acoustic signal processing, and prescriptive methods. Several chapters address cochlear implants and bone conduction hearing aids and all of these treatment options are complemented by a chapter on outcome measurement. Options for assisted listening such as remote microphones are reviewed, as are tinnitus management models. These are only highlights of the broader content, which extends more deeply in to the audiologic options for treatment and management of hearing loss.
Amit: Where can we buy Audiology Treatment Third Edition?
Jason: The book is available as a hardcover and nicely formatted e-book on Thieme.com. It can be purchased individually or as one in a group of three. When purchased as a set of three, the second book focuses on the diagnosis of hearing loss and the third on business management in audiology.
Amit: I want to end with a discussion about leadership and the future of our profession. First, would you talk about all the different leadership positions you have held within Audiology? Do you feel it’s important for audiologists to get involved in leadership either on the state or national level?
Jason: Supporting our profession has always been a passion of mine. I’ve played a role in state, national, and international organizations. This includes supporting the planning of our annual AAA conference for nearly a decade, serving on the executive board of the AAA Foundation, and acting as a reviewer for the American National Standards Organization (ANSI). There are a range of other activities that have come and gone over the years but these have been highlights. The most important point, however, isn’t the work that I’ve done personally, it’s the immeasurable value that volunteers bring to our profession through the donation of their time.
Amit: Have you ever considered running for the AAA Board?...or even presidency? If you did, you’d have my vote. I know first-hand how much time and work goes into being on a national board representing our profession.
Jason: Thanks for the kind words of support! At some point, I may step-up and run for the Academy board. Most recently, I’ve been focused on introducing younger audiologists to our professional organizations and helping to identify volunteer opportunities. For instance, the American Auditory Society has a number of volunteer committees that many clinically-focused colleagues might not be aware of, and the Society would certainly benefit from the participation of more clinicians.
Amit: Ah yes, I was on the meeting committee for the American Auditory Society for 10 years incorporating student volunteers from various universities – great experience! Let’s end with a fun fact: you’ve been married to an audiologist for your entire career, correct? What do the two of you do for fun or is it all-ears, all-the-time?
Jason: That’s correct. My wife Liz and I are both audiologists who have worked together for over a decade. It’s difficult for me to imagine something otherwise. The fact that we share a profession means that we speak the same language and makes us good sounding boards for new ideas and editorial input when writing. That said, one side effect is the fact that our conversations involve a lot ear-talk, which is usually done over a lovely meal (credit to Liz’s exception cooking skills). Audiology has been an excellent foundation for our professional home and we’re looking forward to the future!
Amit: I have a lot of respect for Liz as well! Jason, you’re an amazing leader, and a good friend. Thanks for doing this and welcome to L.A.
Jason: Thanks, Amit! It was great sitting down together. See you again soon!
Food was delicious and Jason ate every bite of that kale!
Amit Gosalia, AuD