Semin Hear 2004; 25(1): 73-80
DOI: 10.1055/s-2004-823049
Copyright © 2004 by Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc., 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA.

Using Interactive Approaches to Evaluate Decision Making in Audiology

Douglas Noffsinger1
  • 1Chief, Audiology and Speech Pathology, VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System; Adjunct Associate Professor, Division of Head and Neck Surgery, Department of Surgery, University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California
A Tribute to Tom Tillman I met Tom Tillman in 1964 when I entered the Audiology Program at Northwestern University as a candidate for a Master's degree. During the sixteen years I spent as a student, researcher, and faculty member at Northwestern, Tom was my teacher, counselor, and colleague. He and his wife, Helen, also gave me good advice about many things that were not covered in the faculty handbook.Tom directed my dissertation. It was a study of how the auditory system recovers from moderate and intense levels of stimulation. Collaboration on this work got off to a tenuous start. Some time after I was added to the collection of Ph.D. candidates he advised, I went to him with what I thought was a good idea for a dissertation. I said, “Do you have any interest in post-exposure responsiveness in the auditory system?” He said, “No.” We survived that encounter, and the dissertation got done1 2 with the help of Wayne Olsen, Ph.D., who headed the audiology laboratory at Northwestern's Medical School where I collected the data.The drafts of chapters for my dissertation that I gave to Tom for comment were the occasion for painful experiences for us both. The very first pages I got back had “AWK” scrawled on them at many places. I interpreted these as written indications of his anguish. My distress was only partially relieved when others told me that this was Tom's way to note an “awkward” way of expressing something. I think he was always uncertain whether or not English was my first language, but as the years went by, I got better at writing or he got kinder in reading.While I was a graduate student, Tom was my instructor in several audiology courses. Some had to do with word recognition tests, including areas in which Tom had worked. Some covered material on diagnostic auditory tests. I think our most interesting discussions were about “special auditory tests” (i.e., tests used primarily to elicit clues about the possible cause of a hearing problem). After I had joined the faculty and started teaching the diagnostic audiology courses, “Principles of Audiologic Evaluation: I and II,” we talked a lot about his approach to teaching these courses and to evaluating student progress. In particular, we talked about his use of interactive exams, although I am sure we did not call them that.Tom thought that even the evaluation process could be a learning experience for students if they got feedback after answers to questions. He thought the feedback could provide information and influence subsequent answers.Students who went through those exams may not remember the learning part because they were usually dreaded oral exams, but the idea was attractive to me-after I no longer had to take the exams. I have used interactive approaches in teaching and in evaluating decision making in audiology ever since. The article I contributed to this memorial issue to Tom Tillman describes a program that uses interactive methods of instruction. I introduce that article by illustrating how Tom Tillman used a type of card game to encourage such interaction, and then describe a project I was involved in to illustrate how computers have made interactive approaches to learning a bit easier.I still think of Tom Tillman and hope that I have been as honest and influential with my students as he was with his. I guess that is the best tribute I could pay to him.
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
02 April 2004 (online)


A learning tool using a compact disk delivery base is described. The tool, a software program titled “Diagnosis and Treatment of Hearing Disorders,” was developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and its National Program in Audiology and Speech Pathology. It is an interactive program designed to provide comprehensive tutorial education on basic and diagnostic test procedures, and on a wide range of auditory disease and pathology. It contains one or more case studies featuring each disease state or condition. The case studies are interactive, allowing the viewer to choose tests, see results, make decisions, diagnoses and recommendations, and then get feedback from experts on the pathway chosen and the diagnosis and recommendations made. The program also tallies how much time it took to do the tests requested by the user and what it would have cost the patient. It compares the test time and cost with similar data from an expert's approach. The program has extensive linkages that allow the viewer to move from one location to another in the program (e.g., from a case study to a tutorial on a particular test procedure or a particular pathology, and back). It gives the user a chance to enter the learning path at an appropriate point through a pre-test, and to exit it with a final exam tied to national CEU credit.


Douglas Noffsinger, Ph.D. 

Audiology (126), VA Medical Center

11301 Wilshire Boulevard

Los Angeles, CA 90073