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Archive for the 'Hearing loss' Category

Michael Reed OBE, teacher, psychologist, & RNID Chairman 1975-85

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 23 November 2018

Michael Reed, (1913-99) was a psychologist, audiologist, and teacher of the deaf, and was the first educational psychologist in England to work with deaf children.  He was employed at the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital, Gray’s Inn Road, London, from 1949-1961.  He then moved to the Inner London Education Authority as Her Majesty’s Inspector for Special Education, with responsibility for deaf pupils.  He remained there until his retirement in 1978, and then settled in Canada in 1989.

Michael Reed was the author of the Reed Picture Screening Test (see below) and Educating hearing impaired children, published by the Open University Press in 1984.

He had a long involvement with the NID/RNID.  He was co-opted onto the NID Medical and Scientific Committee in 1956, then elected onto the Council of Management in 1957.  He became Vice-Chairman of the RNID in 1972, and Chair from 1975-85.

In 1986 he was awarded the OBE and created a Vice-President of the RNID for life.

Here we see him in 1984, in the centre, flanked by Tom and Brenda Sutcliffe, from the then RNID magazine, Soundbarrier.

AKHURST, B.A. Michael Reed OBE 1913-1999. Psychologist, 2000, Jul, 2000, p.338.

REED PICTURE SCREENING TEST FOR HEARING This was a set of pictures of everyday objects for screening primary school children’s hearing, devised by Michael Reed and published by the RNID in 1960.

He uses the language of the time – ‘defect’ sounds uncomfortable to us now, and probably did in the 1960s to some.

PICTURE SCREENING TEST OF HEARING By Michael Reed, B.SC.
THERE IS NO DOUBT that the earlier a hearing defect is discovered the more the handicap caused by such a defect can be alleviated. The picture presented by severe or total deafness is all too obvious, but in the case of slight or moderate deafness, the picture is sometimes more obscure. Many children have been thought to be mentally very dull when, in fact, they have been partially or severely deaf. Frequently they had become frustrated and non-co-operative and therefore it had become difficult to establish the true facts. Many simple cases of deafness have been misdiagnosed because a complete understanding of the effects of distorted hearing or slight hearing losses has been lacking. Children with slight hearing losses which are not obvious may become educationally retarded in the adverse noise conditions of a class-room. Therefore it is extremely important to discover any significant hearing loss as soon as possible in order to be aware of the problem and so help the child. If there is a slight loss of hearing for all frequencies throughout the speech range, or severe loss for frequencies above 1000Hz, there will be some disability in discriminating between consonants. The R.N.I.D. Picture Screening Test has been designed around this simple fact. It is interesting to children and therefore fairly certain of ensuring their co-operation, and is easy both to carry around and to use.
The test is made up of several separate cards each of which has four pictures. The names of the pictures conform with the following conditions.

1. The words must be monosyllabic so that the rhythm of that word does not give a clue.

2. The words in any one row must contain the same vowel sound.

3. The words must be those within the vocabulary of the children to be tested.

The test as designed here can be used for children with a mental age of four years and older and with many children of mental age of three years. To ensure that the child to be tested knows the name of the picture, he is told how to name the pictures first, especially with very young children. If the child calls the owl a bird, one says ‘That’s right but I am going to call it an owl.’ Similarly if the hen is called a chicken, or the sheep a lamb, or the lamb a sheep, he is told that it is to be called a hen a sheep and a lamb so that the words do have the common vowel sound. If the child does not know any words then one cannot test in this way and if in doubt, a full audiometric examination must be requested.

REED, M. A verbal screening test for hearing. proceedings of the 3rd World Congress of the Deaf, Weisbaden, 1959. Deutschen-Gerhorlosen-Bundes, 1961. pp. 195-97.

HOLDING, B., HOLDING, J. and OWEN, A. Prawf clyw darluniadol Dyfed. British Journal of Audiology, 1987, 21. 147. (Welsh version)

McCORMICK, B. Screening young children for hearing impairment. Whurr, 1994. pp. 76-77.

I have had for the first time the courage to say, “Monsieur, I am growing deaf” – Marie Bashkirtseff, Artist

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 16 November 2018

Maria Konstantinovna Bashkirtseva or Marie Bashkirtseff (1858-1884), was a Ukrainian Russian born artist and diarist.  She led a fascinating if brief life, and kept a regular diary from the age of twelve, where she put everything of herself, her hopes, fears, sorrows and joys.  Gladstone famously called it “a book without a parallell.”

The diaries were originally published by her family in an expurgated version in 1888, which was translated into English by the German born English poet, Mathilde Blind.  Marie describes her life, struggles to be accepted in art, and her illness, of which her hearing loss and deafness was a side effect.  More details of her life are to be found on the web (see links below) and her portrait paintings are very fine, well worth seeking out.  She attended the same Art School in Paris as the British Deaf art student George Annand Mackenzie did some years later, the Académie Julian.

Her experience of losing her hearing will, I believe, be recognized by many in a similar situation.  The follow entries date from 1880.  At first there is the mishearing –

Saturday, May 8th. — When people talk in a low voice I do not near. This morning when Tony asked me whether I had seen any of Pemgino’s work, I said “No,” without understanding.

And when I was told of it afterwards, I got out of it, but very badly, by saying that indeed I had not seen any of it, and that, on the whole, it was better to admit one’s ignorance. (p.406)

Then she has tinnitus, and has to endure the ignorant behaviour of others –

Thursday, May 13th. — I have such a singing in my ears that I am obliged to make great efforts in order that it may not be noticed.

Oh ! it is horrible. With S___ it is not so bad because I am sitting near him ; and besides, whenever I like, I can tell him that he bores me.  The G___s talk loud. At the studio they laugh and tell me that I have become deaf; I look pensive, and I laugh at myself: but it’s horrible. (p.407)

There are times when it improves –

Wednesday, July 21st. — I have commenced my treatment. You are fetched in a closed Sedan chair. A costume of white flannel — drawers and stockings in one — and a hood and cloak ! Then follow a bath, a douche, drinking the waters, and inhaling in succession. I accept everything. This is the last time that I mean to take care of myself, and I shouldn’t do it now but for the fear of becoming deaf. My deafness is much better — nearly gone. (p.416)

Then she is told how serious her condition is –

Friday, September 10th. — … Doctor Fauvel, who sounded me a week ago and found nothing the matter, has sounded me to-day and found that my bronchial tubes are attacked ; his look became . . .  grave, affected, and a little confused at not having foreseen the seriousness of the evil ; then followed some of the prescriptions for consumptive persons, cod-liver oil, painting with iodine, hot milk, flannel, &c. &c, and at last he advises going to see Dr. Sée or Dr. Potain, or else to bring them to his house for a consultation. You may imagine what my aunt’s face was like ! I am simply amused ! I have suspected something for a long time ; I have been coughing all the winter, and I cough and choke still.

Besides, the wonder would be if I had nothing the matter ; I should be satisfied to have something serious and be done with it

My aunt is dismayed, and I am triumphant Death does not frighten me; I should not dare to kill myself but I should like to be done with it . . . If you only knew ! . . . . I will not wear flannel nor stain myself with iodine; I am not anxious to get better. I shall have, without that, quite enough health and life for all I shall be able to do in it.

Friday, September 17th. — Yesterday I went again to the doctor to whom I went about my ears, and he admitted that he did not expect to see matters so serious, and that I should never hear so well as formerly. I felt as if struck dead. It is horrible! I am not deaf certainly, but I hear as one sees through a thin veil. For instance, I cannot hear the tick of my alarm-clock, and I may perhaps never hear it again without going close up to it. It is indeed a misfortune. Sometimes in conversation many things escape my hearing. . . . Well, let us thank heaven for not being blind or dumb as yet. (p.422-3)

This was two years before Robert Koch, the founder of modern microbiology, identified the causative agent of ‘consumption’ – Tuberculosis, as Mycobacterium tuberculosis.  It seems likely that the this was the cause of her deafness, but we cannot be sure.  In that year, 1882, she was confronted by the news that her hearing was gone and would not return –

Thursday, November 16th. — I have been to a great doctor — a hospital surgeon — incognito and quietly dressed, so that he might not deceive me.

Oh! he is not an amiable man. He has told me very simply I shall never be cured. But my condition may improve in a satisfactory manner, so that it will be a bearable deafness ; it is so already ; it will be more so according to all appearances. But if I do not rigorously follow the treatment he prescribes it will increase. He also directs me to a little doctor who will watch over me for two months, for he has not the time himself to see me twice a week as is necessary.

I have had for the first time the courage to say, “Monsieur, I am growing deaf.” Hitherto I have made use of, ” I do not hear well, my ears are stopped, &c.” This time I dared to say that dreadful thing, and the doctor answered me with the brutality of a surgeon.

I hope that the misfortunes announced by my dreams may be that But let us not busy ourselves in advance with the troubles which God holds in reserve for his humble servant. Just at present I am only half deaf.

However, he says that it will certainly get better. As long as I have my family to watch round me and to come to my assistance with the readiness of affection all goes well, yet …. but alone, in the midst of strangers !

And supposing I have a wicked or indelicate husband ! … If again it had been compensated by some great happiness with which I should have been crowned without deserving it ! But . . . why, then, is it said that God is good, that God is just ?

Why does God cause suffering? If it is He who has created the world, why has He created evil, suffering, and wickedness ?

So then I shall never be cured. It will be bearable ; but there will be a veil betwixt me and the rest of the world. The wind in the branches, the murmur of the water, the rain which falls on the windows . . . words uttered in a low tone … I shall hear nothing of all that ! With the K____ s I did not find myself at fault once ; nor at dinner either ; directly the conversation is just a little animated I have no reason to complain. But at the theatre I do not hear the actors completely ; and with models, in the deep silence, one does not speak loud . . . However . . . without doubt, it had been to a certain decree foreseen. I ought to have become accustomed to it during the last year … I am accustomed to it, but it is terrible all the same.

I am struck in what was the most necessary to me and the most precious. (p.565-6)

She died on October the 31st, 1884, and was buried in the Cimetiere de Passy in Paris, a few weeks before her twenty-sixth birthday.

It is certainly wrong to portray her by her illness alone.  She was a dynamic and interesting person, and the tragedy is she did not have the opportunity to show what she might have achieved.  I hope some of you will be interested to read her diaries and see her paintings.

Marie_Bashkirtseff1878Journal of Marie Bashkirtseff, Translated by Mathilde Blind, London 1890

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Marie-Bashkirtseff

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13916/13916-h/13916-h.htm

Marie Bashkirtseff. Part 2 her later life and diaries

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Bashkirtseff

Marie Bashkirtseff. Part 1 The portraitist and feminist

Gladstone, W. E. (1889). JOURNAL DE MARIE BASHKIRTSEFF. The Nineteenth Century: A Monthly Review, Mar.1877-Dec.1900, 26(152), 602-607. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/2630378?accountid=14511

Her paintings:

https://www.wikiart.org/en/marie-bashkirtseff/all-works#!#filterName:all-paintings-chronologically,resultType:masonry

https://www.ecosia.org/images?q=marie+bashkirtseff

The following looks interesting but I have not seen the article:

VALLERY-RADOT P 1955 Nov 26;63(79):1659-60. Une curieuse malade (1860-1884); Marie Bashkirtseff peinte par elle-même d’après son journal. [A strange patient (1860-1884); Marie Bashkirtseff who, according to her diary, she portrayed herself]. [Article in French]

 

“deaf as he was, and deafer than he really was” – İsmet İnönü’s diplomatic skill – turning off his hearing aid

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 11 May 2018

İsmet İnönü (1884-1973), the Turkish delegate at the Armistice of Mudanya, and later representative in negotiations for the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, had hearing loss.  He became Prime Minister of Turkey and President. He had been a gunnery officer, so I wonder if his hearing loss was related to that.  Among other things, The Times for the 18th of November, 1922, said of him, “His reputation during the Great War was that of a safe, hard-working, rather cautious Staff Colonel, deaf, and consequently short-tempered, and a terror to slack or casual subordinates.”

At any rate, during the negotiations at Lausanne, in what Cleveland calls “a classic in the annals of international diplomacy” it seems that when Lord Curzon spoke, İsmet would turn off his hearing aid, and only turn it back on afterwards, restating his original position “as though the British Foreign Secretary had never uttered a word”  (Cleveland, chapter 10, 2016).

Later, Sir Charles Harington, in a speech quoted indirectly in The Times said,

Referring to Chanak and the Mudania Conference, Sir Charles said it was a near thing, but there were three factors in the problem. The greatest factor was Lord Curzon himself in Paris; the nextwas the splendid body of reinforcements sent to him; and the other was the friendship he formed, after the fifth day at Mudania, with General Ismet Pasha. It was quite safe to say that, difficult as Ismet Pasha was, deaf as he was, and deafer than he really was (laughter), they had made great friends. (The Times, 21st of November, 1923)

He is second from the left in this photo of the Turkish Mudanya delegation, from a postcard in our collection, where Selwyn Oxley noted Ismet Pasha (an honorary title) was deaf.

It would be interesting to know where his hearing aid came from, as I have no idea how many manufacturers were making them at that time.  If you can add anything about his hearing loss, please do in the comment field below.

William L. Cleveland, Martin Bunton, A History of the Modern Middle East (6th ed. 2016)

The Times (London, England), Saturday, Nov 18, 1922; pg. 11; Issue 43192

The Times (London, England), Wednesday, Nov 21, 1923; pg. 11; Issue 43504

“Brandy for giddiness, 2s” – Jonathan Swift’s Meniere’s Disease

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 13 April 2018

One of the great writers of English, Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) was plagued for much of his life by bouts of giddiness, and by increasing deafness, though in many other respects he was healthy and lived to the age of seventy-seven.  It sometimes incapacitated him for long periods.

In August 1727 he wrote to Lady Henrietta Howard,

About two hours before you were born, I got my giddiness by eating a hundred golden pippins at a time at Richmond, and, when you were five years and a quarter old, baiting 2 days, I got my deafness, and these two friends, one or other, have visited me, every year since: and being old acquaintances, have now thought fit to come together.

It seems to have begun when he was twenty, according to the autobiographical notes in Forster’s biography (p.27),  but there, there is a footnote inserted that says Swift had added, “in 1690.”  The word ‘hours’ in the letter to Henrietta Howard may be an error for, or misreading of, ‘years,’ or it could be he had forgotten precisely when it happenened.

At first he self-medicated – on the 16th of November, 1708, he wrote “Brandy for giddiness, 2s.”

Bucknill (p.495-6) quotes Swift’s ‘Journal to Stella’ for October 1710: “This morning, sitting in my bed, I had a fit of giddiness; the room turned round for about a minute and then it went off leaving me sickish, but not very.  I saw Dr. Cockburn to-day, and he promises to send me the pills that did me good last year; and likewise has promised me an oil for my ears, that he has been making for that ailment for somebody else.”  The diagnosis seems to be that he had Ménière’s disease (see Bucknill and Bewley).

Some years after the letter, several newspapers published a poem that Swift had written about his illness, both in Latin and in English (Grub Street Journal, Thursday, November 14, 1734; Issue 255), although the version with the answers seems to be later –

Vertiginosus, inops, surdus, male gratus amicis;
Non campana sonans, tonitru non ab Jove missum,
Quod mage mirandum, saltem si credere fas est,
Non clamosa meas mulier jam percutit aures.

DOCTOR: Deaf, giddy, helpless, left alone.
ANSWER: Except the first, the fault’s your own.
DOCTOR: To all my friends a burden grown.
ANSWER: Because to few you will be shewn.
Give them good wine, and meat to stuff,
You may have company enough.
DOCTOR: No more I hear my church’s bell,
Than if it rang out for my knell.
ANSWER: Then write and read, ’twill do as well.
DOCTOR: At thunder now no more I start,
Than at the rumbling of a cart.
ANSWER: Think then of thunder when you fart.
DOCTOR: Nay, what’s incredible, alack!
No more I hear a woman’s clack.
ANSWER: A woman’s clack, if I have skill,
Sounds somewhat like a throwster’s mill;
But louder than a bell, or thunder:
That does, I own, increase my wonder.

Although he lived to a good age, Swift’s final few years seem to have found him the victim of what Bewley calls, ‘terminal dementia’ (p.604).
Bewley, Thomas, The health of Jonathan Swift.  J. R. Soc. Med. 1998;91 :602-605

Bucknill JC. Dean Swift’s disease. Brain 1881;4:493-506

Forster, John, The Life of Jonathan Swift, Volume 1

The Works of the English Poets. With Prefaces, Biographical and …, Volume 40

Hearing Awareness Day – Patient Information

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 27 February 2018

By Abir Mukherjee @ClinicalLibUCLH

This second post of this series highlights a small selection of reliable patient information resources for hearing loss in general. Once again, these sources either meet the NHS Information Standard or are produced by reputable organisations.

Action on Hearing Loss (formerly the Royal National Institute for Deaf People – RNID) estimates that one in six people in the UK has hearing loss or is deaf, and increasingly people are accessing help to hear better. Their website discusses in clear terms, the different types and causes of hearing loss and deafness, as well as what people can do if they are worried about hearing loss – from seeing a GP to getting hearing aids or a cochlear implant. They also have a very useful glossary for hearing disorders and symptoms. NHS CHOICES also provides a relevant overview of hearing loss including symptoms and treatment options. In line with this year’s World Hearing Day theme of ‘Hear the Future’ they also discuss some simple but common sense ways of reducing the risk of damage to hearing such as:

· not having the television, radio or music on too loud

· using headphones that block out more outside noise, instead of turning up the volume

· wearing ear protection (such as ear defenders) in a noisy environments

· using ear protection at loud concerts and other events where there are high noise levels

· not inserting objects ears – this includes fingers, cotton buds, cotton wool and tissues

· Get a hearing test as soon as possible if worried about hearing loss -the earlier hearing loss is picked up, the earlier something can be done about it.

ENT UK, produced by the Royal College of Surgeons also has easy to understand information on ear anatomy and how the ear works to explain hearing disorders and common causes. Patient Info also has a range of pertinent information on hearing disorders and downloadable leaflets.

Background for World Hearing Day

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 26 February 2018

By Abir Mukherjee

World Hearing Day is held on 3 March each year in order to raise awareness and understanding of deafness and hearing loss, and to promote ear health and the care provided by audiologists across the world.

This year’s theme is “Hear the future”, and World Hearing Day 2018 hopes to draw attention to the anticipated rise in people with hearing loss around the world in the coming decades.

The WHO’s figures estimate 466 million people worldwide live with disabling hearing loss. Unless action is taken, by 2030 the number will rise to nearly 630 million.

Key initiatives for #WorldHearingDay2018 include preventative strategies to stem the rise in hearing loss and steps to ensure access to the necessary rehabilitation services; communication tools and products for people with hearing loss.

All of these are important areas of research for Action on Hearing Loss, the UCL Ear Institute, the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital, and many other colleagues and organisations in the UK and further afield.

Throughout the week we will be writing blogs highlighting evidence and information in support of “Hear the future”, and World Hearing Day.

References: World Health Organization. (2018). 3 March 2018: World Hearing Day. [online] Available at: http://www.who.int/deafness/world-hearing-day/whd-2018/en/ [Accessed 23 Feb. 2018].

Hon. Venetia Marjorie Mabel Baring, 1890-1937 – “Deafness and Happiness”

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 22 December 2017

Venetia Marjorie Mabel Baring was a daughter of Francis Denzil Edward Baring, 5th Baron Ashburton.  In 1930 she wrote a booklet Deafness and Happiness, our copy being the 1935 reprint.  It was published by A.R. Mowbray, who produced religious and devotional books.  It is on vey good quality paper.  According to the short introduction by “A.F. Bishop of London” who seems to be Arthur Foley Winnington-Ingram, she was “afflicted in the heyday of her youth with almost total deafness” (p.iii).  Her photographic portrait is in the National Portrai Gallery collection, and a drawing of her is in the Royal Collection.

She was born in London in 1890.  She wrote her book with the encouragement of Winnington-Ingram.  Below is a page from the book which gives a flavour of its religious polemic.  It is certainly of interest to anyone who is fascinated by attitudes to deafness and how they have or have not changed over the years.

In 1936, Arthur Story wrote a letter to the BMJ about deafness.  Venetia Baring wrote a respose, echoing his words and developing her own ideas about deafness:

The helplessness of medical science where deafness is concerned is incontestable, and, as it is not of itself a menace to life, research into causes has suffered on financial grounds in comparison with other diseases. The complete lack of official understanding of deafness was painfully illustrated in the great war, when it was necessary for a few public-spirited individuals like the late Sir Frederick Milner to fight for the rights of deafened ex-Service men.  There are certainly signs that the medical profession is becoming increasingly alive to the fact that the monster is hydra-headed and that there are few mental and physical disorders to which it does not prove an open door unless intelligently handled.

From the last line of this letter we learn that she was “not born deaf, had acute hearing up to 19, and used no “aids” to nearly 30″ (ibid).

She died aged only 47 on the 15th of July, 1937, having suffered from serious illness before then.  Indeed, she added a chapter to the second edition of her book on ‘The Power and Use of Pain.’  “Science is working for the abolition of suffering; but it will never succeed, because, while sin exists, pain is inevitable and can even be a vital factor in the development of human personality.” (p.37)   She was clearly someone who had experienced pain and tried to work her own way through it.

It would be interesting to find out more about her.

Peerage.com

Baring, Venetia, The Deaf and the Blind Br Med J 1936; 1 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.1.3934.1134 (Published 30 May 1936)

Earnest Elmo Calkins, Deaf Pioneer of Modern Advertising

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 24 November 2017

Calkins signatureCHEarnest Elmo Calkins (1868-1964) was a pioneer of modern advertising.  Born in

In Design Observer, Steven Heller says of him, that he is “recognized as the founder of “styling the goods,” otherwise known as “consumer engineering” or even better known as “forced obsolescence”—he is considered in the pantheon of twentieth century Modernists.”

Calkins wrote a volume of memoirs, “Louder Please,” in 1924, & then in 1946 produced an extended version, “and hearing not-“; Annals of an Adman.  Writing in the third person, here as ‘the Boy,’ he describes here his loss of hearing in a chapter that appears in both volumes, ‘The ears begin to close’ :

nothing stands out with any sharpness, either teachers or lessons.  A sort of mist seems to veil the next three or four years.

The reason for the mist was that the Boy was growing deafer.  School seemed more futile the less he heard of it.  The world-old conflict between heredity and environment was henceforth to be influenced by a new element whose effect could not be foreseen.  Deafness introduced complications that required new adjustments, like deuces wild in a poker game.  The cause, it seems, was measles experienced at the age of six, at length bearing its evil fruit, but the predisposition was probably a part of his inheritance.  He was at least ten years old before his condition was realized, even by himself.  His fits of abstraction and oblivion were laid to inattention by the higher powers, both at home and abroad. (and hearing not, p.p.67-8)

He went on eventiually to college, and got good marks in mathematics, but otherwise, “For four years he sat in various classrooms, hearing almost nothing, content or at least resigned to make out a passable performance” (p.100).  He got into advertising aged 23, when he won a competition for an advertisement for a Bissell carpet sweeper.  Later on his advertising company was behind ‘Lucky Jim’ of the breakfast cereal Force, and he introduced modern art into American advertising in the 1920s.

CalkinsIn the chapter, ‘Social life of a deaf man,’ Calkins describes how so many famous people he met he was “unable to use, other than to satisfy my curiosity as to how they looked.”   He relied on his wife in many of these situations (p.180).  He says that “Deafness was the ever present influence.  It made or marred my attempts to earn a living, it selected my friends for me, and determined what I was to enjoy of social life, what my amusements were to be.” (p.181)

“A partially deaf man is like Aesop’s bat, neither animal nor bird, but having the disabilities of both, belonging neither to the hearing world  nor that of the totally deaf.” (p.188)

“Lip reading is like handwriting in that it is sometimes as clear as print and again as illegible as Horace Greeley‘s famous chirography.” (p.189)  He had lessons in lip reading with Edward B. Nitchie, who was deaf and whose books we have.

We have the two volumes of memoir mentioned above.  One is signed by Calkins, dedicated to Madeleine de Soyres.  They are well worth investigating, and he seems to me an engaging writer.

Calkins, Earnest Elmo, “Louder Please,” 1924

Calkins, Earnest Elmo, “and hearing not-“; Annals of an Adman.  New York, 1946

“The difficulty with which she then spoke on her fingers … added to her power of expression” Jessie E. Beatrice Ruddock

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 7 April 2017

It is not always easy to find women with a connection to Deaf history until the late 19th and early 20th century.  Before that, it seems to me, men predominated in both deaf education and in Deaf society and institutions.  Jessie Eva Beatrice Ruddock was one of the young women who changed that in the early decades of the 20th century.

Born in St. Margaret’s on Thames (Isleworth) on the 19th of June, 1889, Jessie was the daughter of a civil servant, Montague Grevile Ruddock (already retired in 1891 aged only 52), and his wife Amy.  Jessie was educated at a private school, South Croydon College, and then when her family moved into London, she attended a school in Kensington (Fry, 1913, from which most of the following comes).  She then had an attack of influenza aged thirteen,

which left inflammation of both ears, necessitating mastoid operations, and causing a total loss of her hearing.  For three weary years Miss Ruddock lay very ill, cared for by a noble mother and sister. Few can imagine the agony of mind experienced by her and her relatives when, after being unconscious for twelve days, it began to dawn on her that the song of the nightingale across the road in Kew Gardens would know her not.  The trilling of these beautiful songstresses had previously been her delight.* (ibid)

Her education seemed over, but aged seventeen a friend suggested a career in dispensing.  I wonder if her father had retired early through ill-health as  the children all seem to have gone into some form of employment, and after her father’s death in 1909 her mother ran a boarding house in Kew.

miss ruddockJessie contacted a Dr. Farrar, who offered to coach her, saying her deafness should be no handicap to the work of a dispenser.  Fry tell us that she attended the college, which is now the UCL School of Pharmacy, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. then studied at home until 10 p.m.  “It was jolly at the College; between fifteen and twenty ladies were there, and we attended lectures twice a day.  My chief difficulty was in pronouncing Latin and botanical names.” (ibid)  Of 150 candidates, only 23 passed, including Jessie.  She held three appointments, with a private doctor, at the Royal Maternity Charity of London Outpatients’ Department, and All Saints’ Hospital.  Fry continues, “She yearned for other fields to conquer, however, and ultimately began a course of training as a nurse at Her Majesty’s Hospital, Stepney.”  That ended unfortunately when her father became ill and she gave up work.

In 1913, Maxwell S. Fry wrote an article on Miss J. E. Beatrice Ruddock, for The British Deaf Times.  In 1910 she had written to the secretary of the National Deaf Club, having read about it in the newspapers.  She wished to know if ladies were admitted.  This caused the creation of a ladies section to the club.

Fry was obviously so taken with Miss Ruddock that he really laid it on in his article, recording his impressions when they first met in 1910/11:

Miss Ruddock is lithe of figure, quiet, pleasant and refined.  The difficulty with which she then spoke on her fingers – having scarcely mastered our language – added to her power of expression.

[…]

This brilliant and gifted young lady possesses a delicate sensibility, and a quick perception.  She is one who grasps the significance that lies beneath the surface of things apparently insignificant, and realises the splendour often hidden in simple lives.  Very intelligent, she is possessed of keen instinct.  Rich in so many natural gifts, she might have become a scholar.  withal, it is the unconscious in her that counts.

It must have worked as, dear reader, he married her in 1915, and they had two daughters, Mary Eileen (b.1920), and Kathleen (b.1917).

We also learn from the article that she enjoyed cycling, had played the piano, and went with her brother to watch Fulham play football.  Jessie (or Beatrice as she now seems to have preferred) and her husband later lived in Coventry.  Maxwell Stewart Fry, who deserves a blog post of his own, died in 1943.  I am sure there is much more that could be added about her.  She died aged 90, on the 7th of January, 1980.**

[Note that the 1911 census does not describe here as ‘deaf’.  Also, in the 1891 and 1901 censuses she was named as Jessie Ruddock, but after her father’s death she has become Beatrice in the 1911 census.]

*Fry got the the nightingale sex wrong – as with many songbirds, males sing to impress females as well as establishing territory, e.g. Multiple song features are related to paternal effort in common nightingales

** Thanks, yet again, to Norma McGilp!

Obituary. Late Mr Maxwell Fry, Coventry.  The British Deaf Times, vol 41, 1944, p.9

Fry, M.S., Prominent in the Deaf World.  Miss J.E. Beatrice Ruddock. The British Deaf Times, 1913 p.160-1

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 1026; Folio: 131; Page: 41; GSU roll: 6096136

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 50; Folio: 17; Page: 25

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 3594; Schedule Number: 109