In 1983, Mr. Cole founded Etymonic Design, manufacturer of Audioscan portable hearing aid analyzers, and has been president since then. The company developed the first digitally programmable in-the-ear hearing aid with a handheld programmer in 1985, the integrated circuit (IC) for the Telex Adaptive Compression circuit, and the first head-worn cochlear implant processor for the House Ear Institute. In 2001, the Audioscan Verifit was introduced as the first desktop hearing aid tester/real ear measurement system that utilized digitized speech signals instead of traditional tone and noise signals. The Verifit amplification test results could be compared directly to behavioral measures of hearing—the first “speech map” measurements on hearing aids that displayed gain and signal processing for speech at different input levels compared to the listener’s dynamic range. Included also in current Audioscan analyzers are tests for real-time directionality for adaptive directional hearing aids, noise reduction, feedback suppression, and a simulation of pediatric hearing aid fitting performance as predicted by the real-ear-to-coupler difference (RECD).
Prior to his Audioscan affiliation, Mr. Cole was a pioneer in low voltage, low current-drain hearing aid circuit design. While he was at Westinghouse, Canada, his designs included the first hearing aid ICs with compression and a high-performance push-pull output stage. Later, when the company essentially became LTI/Gennum, Mr. Cole designed several IC amplifiers that were widely used in millions of hearing aids. In the early 1970s, while at Unitron, Mr. Cole designed the first behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid with input compression and a directional BTE hearing aid that had a variable polar pattern that was adjusted by a moving slider.
Mr. Cole has been called an exceptional clinical scientist who happens to be an engineer. He has dedicated his career to excellence and innovation in the field of audiology, which has led to the implementation of user-friendly, clinically applicable solutions. Objective indices of speech intelligibility are now in the hands of clinicians. In 2007, a William A. Cole Award for Excellence in Audiology was established at Western University (previously known as the University of Western Ontario), at which Mr. Cole is an honorary professor of audiology.
Mr. Cole is also a prolific author, having written many articles on hearing and technology, as well as coauthoring chapters on hearing aids and their assessment in the last two editions of the Handbook of Clinical Audiology, edited by Jack Katz.
Mr. Cole has been very active in the development and harmonization of American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) hearing aid-related performance measurement standards, a labor of love that often involves weekend work. He currently chairs both the Acoustical Society of America (ASA)/ANSI and IEC/ISO (International Organization for Standardization) standards working groups on probe tube measurements of hearing aid performance and is an active member of both the ASA/ANSI and IEC working groups on hearing aid standards and the IEC working group on audiometer standards. In this capacity, Mr. Cole often contributes clear and logical reasoning to standards-development discussions and has shown a unique ability to achieve consensus among committee members having widely differing interests and opinions.