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UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries


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French Soldiers learn to lip read, circa 1920

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 13 June 2014

In the British Deaf Times for March-April 1922 (p.21) we read that the Duke and Duchess of Portland attended a tea for deafened ex-servicemen in Nottingham.   The former soldiers followed proceedings by lip-reading.

The lip-reading classes held in Nottingham and Mansfield have afforded instruction to 173 ex-service men, and keen disappointment is felt at an intimation the the Ministry of Pensions is likely to stop the grant, for there are many more afflicted who need similar instruction. Some 230 men in the East Midland region have been reported to Nottingham, and there are about 60 more known to be deaf, but who have not been reported. […]
It is impossible to over-estimate the benefit offered. The high percentage of ex-service ment in this region is considered to be due to the fact that Medical Boards and aural specialists have been particularly keen in recommending cases, and that the teachers here have a happy faculty for teaching deaf men.

There is a fair bit of material on deafness in the military in the First World War and all the way through to modern conflicts, but no one has as far as I am aware written anything about the scale of the problem in the post war years and how people managed to cope.

The photographs here show a teacher in France working with deafened soldiers in Nantes. We do not know the name of the teacher, but I believe he would be easily identifiable, so if you know who he is please add a comment below. The pictures show, in a pre-audiometric testing era, the ways in which hearing was tested and lip-reading taught.

French soldiers 6

Deaf soldiers Nantes 1 001The idea in the first image is to test the ability to lip-read from an angle.French Soldiers 4French Soldiers 3

French soldiers 2French Soldiers 5Here we see various hearing tests. Finally Deaf Soldier Nates 3 AH 001I particularly wonder why lip-reading ancient history was one of the lessons!

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