The NHCA Narrative: Jim Schultz 

By: Jim Schultz, NHCA Member 

I trace the origin of my NHCA story to one of the most important homework assignments of my academic career, which I failed. 

In 2007, I was an undergrad in the Audio Arts and Acoustics department at Columbia College Chicago. Part of the curriculum was a fascinating auditory anatomy and physiology course taught by Benj Kanters. One of the assignments was getting a hearing test at a local clinic that worked with musicians, called Sensaphonics. For most of my peers, it was an easy “A”. 

In full honesty, I never scheduled an appointment and did not complete the assignment. For the record, it was the last assignment I ever skipped. Feeling guilt from my negligence, I figured the least I could do was hop on the Sensaphonics website to learn more about them. It was my first, independent exploration into audiology and, as the cliché goes, it was a lightbulb moment. I was drawn to this obscure healthcare discipline that revolved around care for our precious sense of hearing. At the time, pursuing a doctorate seemed an insurmountable task, so the idea went to the back burner. 

In 2015, I was a second-year audiology student at Arizona State University and attended my first AudiologyNow! conference. The one session on the top of my list addressed hearing healthcare for musicians. The speakers were Mike Santucci and Heather Malyuk of Sensaphonics. I had continued following the company over the years and their conservation-dominant approach put them on my personal “Mount Rushmore of Audiology”. 

Throughout the talk, a voice in my head started shouting to find a way to get a rotation at Sensaphonics. I lived on the other side of the country and already had my academic rotations booked, but I didn’t care. An opportunity to learn hands-on from industry heroes and achieve personal redemption from the bungled Columbia assignment was too important. After the talk, I introduced myself to Dr. Malyuk and blurted a plea for an off-the-record rotation squeezed in between the summer and fall sessions. She generously offered to work with me and see what we could whip up. 

A few months later, I was back in Chicago, shadowing Dr. Malyuk at the Sensaphonics Musician’s Hearing Clinic. The impact of my time there is beyond the scope of this story, but the experience was transformative. 

Before returning to Arizona, Heather plugged the NHCA as a professional collection of “our people” and strongly recommended attending the annual meeting as someone interested in conservation. Heeding her advice, I went to the following NHCA conference and was sold. 

Today, I’m an NHCA member and work on the Noise Outcomes in Servicemember Epidemiology (NOISE) study, exploring the effects of military exposures on hearing health in our Service members and Veterans. In 2022, I had the privilege of speaking at the NHCA annual conference on behalf of our team and it was quickly cemented as one of my favorite professional accomplishments. 

I’ve enjoyed reflecting on the past fifteen years to attempt a cohesive NHCA narrative. In hindsight, it was intertwined in a happenstance chain of events that, ultimately, led me to audiology. As we hear more from our peers, I wouldn’t be surprised to see timely interjections from “our people” emerge as a common theme of paths to the NHCA. That was certainly my experience and I hope to pay it forward to others moving into the future.