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Archive for the 'Audiology' Category

The Hughes Microphone, and a ‘Telephone for the Deaf’

H Dominic W Stiles3 May 2013

Two slightly connected items today. Clerk Maxwell was the person who first suggested the possibililty of radio waves in 1867.  Although Hertz gets the credit for establishing that high frequency electric currents did produce radio waves, and exhibited the properties of light waves but at longer frequencies, it was a Welsh-American, David Edward Hughes, who had first stumbled on the evidence (Geddes 1979).  The devices Hughes experimented with in 1879 acted as a radio transmitter – his induction balance – and detector – the microphone he developed and for which he seems to have coined the term (John 1979). He declined to take out a patent on the microphone, saying it belonged “more to the realm of discovery than invention” (John).

Geddes (British Journal of Audiology 1979, sup 2.p.13-16) examines the place of Hughes in the history of radio.  Hughes demonstrated his experiments to members of the Royal Society on 20th February 1880, but the were dismissed by Professor Stokes and Thomas Huxley.

Mr Spottiswoode, President of the Royal Society, Professor Stokes and Prof Huxley, visited me today at half past three p.m. and remained until quarter to 6 p.m., in order to witness my experiments withe Extra Current Thermopile, etc. The experiments were quite successful, and at first they were astonished at the results, but at 5 p.m. Prof Stokes commenced maintaining that the results were not due to conduction but to induction, and that results were then not so remarkable, as he could imagine rapid changes of electric tension by induction. Although I showed several experiments which pointed conclusively to its being conduction, he would not listen, but rather pooh-poohed all the results from that moment. This unpleasant discussion was then kept up by him, the others following suit, until they hardly paid any attention to the experiments, even to the one working through gaspipe in Portland Street to Langham Place on roof. They did not sincerely compliment meat the end on results, seeming all to be very much displeased because I would not give at once my Thermopile to the Royal Society so that others could make their results. I told them that when Prof Hughes made an instrument of research, it was for Prof Hughes’s researches and no one else. They left very coldly and with none of the enthusiasm with which they commenced the experiments. I am sorry at these results of so much labour but cannot help it. (Geddes, from Hughes’s notebooks)

Stokes suggested Hughes submit a paper on the experiments but Hughes did not, and he did very little more work on this according to Geddes.  Despite this seeming failure to convince his peers (Stokes was Lucasian Professor at Cambridge), he was elected to the Royal Society in 1880, winning their gold medal in 1885 and becoming vice-president of the Society in 1891.

In 1876 Bell had developed the first telephone. It was not long before it was considered for its possibilities as a hearing aid.  The first patent with this in mind was #226, 902 issued to Francis Clarke and Macomb G. Foster in 1880, but this was essentially a bone conduction device and does not merit classification as an electrical hearing aid according to Kenneth Berger (1984). Berger examines the various claims for early electric hearing aids (Berger, chapter 2), but it was not until 1901-2 that Miller Reese Hutchinson patented the first true wearable hearing aid.

J.E.J. John says, “The carbon microphone has changed since Hughes’ time but the microphone which we use everyday in our telephones is essentially Hughes'” (John, 1979).

I wonder if this reference from a letter to A Magazine Intended Chiefly for the Deaf and Dumb (No.63 Vol.6, March 1878), its one of the earliest references to a ‘hearing aid’?  ‘Ignatius’ should have patented the idea!

Telephone 001

Berger, Kenneth Walter, The hearing aid : its operation and development, 1984

Geddes, W.K.E., Hughes’ Place in the History of Radio, British Journal of Audiology 1979, sup 2. p.13-16

John, J.E.J., David Edward Hughes F.R.S. British Journal of Audiology 1979, Vol.13 sup 2 .p.5-10

Tinnitus prevalence

H Dominic W Stiles1 March 2013

Recently we had an enquiry about tinnitus prevalence.  What follows is based on the information I uncovered trying to give an answer to that enquiry.

The figures for tinnitus will depend on a number of factors, for example the type or duration of tinnitus, and demographics, the subjective nature of tinnitus, the type of questions you ask people when you do a survey, and so on.  There will of course be other cautionary points to consider, such as the size of a sample, and other cultural or health related factors.

Back in 1987 the ‘MRC Institute of Hearing Research’ under Adrian Davis , discussed prevalence based on the National Study of Hearing (NSH) & the General Household Survey (pages 46-50), aged 17 and over in the UK (in chapter 3 “Epidemiology of Tinnitus” in Hazell (ed) Tinnitus p.46-70).  They estimated–

  • That 35-45% of adults have experienced tinnitus of some type.
  • About 15% of adults appear to have experienced spontaneous tinnitus lasting  over 5 mins.
  • At least 8% experience tinnitus causing interference with their getting to sleep & or moderate annoyance. “This would suggest about 4 million adults in the UK being affected”.
  • 0.5% report their tinnitus has a severe effect on their ability to lead a normal life “this amounts to 200,00 persons in the UK”.

In Tyler’s Tinnitus Handbook (2000), Davis quotes (chapter 1 p.4-5) the NSH based on – 

Postal questionnaires (“see Davis 1989”)

  • About 10.1% of adults experience prolonged spontaneous tinnitus.
  • 5.1% reported unilateral tinnitus.
  • 5% bilateral tinnitus.
  • That “the major indicator in this study was tinnitus annoyance. The study showed that about 5% had tinnitus which is moderately or severely annoying.”
  • 5% reported sleep disturbance. There was a considerable overlap with tinnitus annoyance such that 6% suffered either sleep disturbance or moderate-severe annoyance or moderate-severe annoyance or both.
  • The prevalence rate for a severe effect on quality of life was lower than those who had moderate-severely annoying tinnitus at about 1%.
  • Prevalence of those who reported a severe effect on ability to lead a ‘normal’ life was even less at 0.5%. “While this latter figure seems small it represents a large number of people: 200-250,000 in the United Kingdom and in excess of one million in the United States.”

From in clinic examinations

  • That increased age was important – 4.3% tinnitus in the in 17-30 age group, 15.8% in the 61-70 age group.
  • Slightly more females than males had tinnitus (p.12-13).

Overall then he concludes (p.6)

  • That there is a 10.1-14.5% prevalence, and up to 22 to 32% if the criteria are relaxed to include occasional tinnitus following noise or the common cold.
  • That 3-4% of adults consult a family doctor about tinnitus at least once in a lifetime with a similar percentage consulting about a hearing problem and tinnitus, “an indication of the magnitude of the problem”.

It seems to me it would be better if people stuck with, and quoted, percentages at a certain date/place where an article gives them, rather than trying to extrapolate for the population to best guesses in the millions.

Music and Deaf People

H Dominic W Stiles20 November 2012

There is, perhaps surprisingly, a large amount of literature on Deaf people and music. In response to a Guardian article which mentioned deaf children feeling the vibrations of instruments here is some suggested reading:

Books / Reports:
Beament J
How we hear music: the relationship between music and the hearing mechanism.Woodbridge, Boydell Press; 2001.
Written for music students but covers the physical basics of hearing music.

Glennie E
Good vibrations: my autobiography. 1990, Hutchinson.
RNID Biography

Marcus H
Music for all: an investigation into the value of music for deaf people. Unpublished MA thesis, 2001, University of Sheffield.
RNID C7234 (reference only)

Rigney M
Deaf side story: deaf sharks, hearing jets, and a classical American musical.Washington DC; Gallaudet University Press 2003.
The story of a collaborative staging of West Side Story by two American Colleges, one of which was Illinois School for the Deaf.

Chapters & Articles:
Abdi, S et al
Introducing music as a means of habilitation for children with cochlear implants. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF PEDIATRIC OTORHINOLARYNGOLOGY, 2001, 59(2), 105-113.

Almost famous. DEAF ARTS UK, 2003, 21, 19.
Interview with student flautist Ruth Montgomery.

Annear P
The seashell gamelan. HEARING CONCERN, 2000, 8 (2), 12-13.
Music work at the Royal School for the Deaf (Manchester)

Ash A
Sign song with Caroline Parker. DEAF ARTS UK, 1999, 8, 17.
Brief report of sign song workshop led by sign song artist Caroline Parker.
Available online at:  www.deafed.net/PublishedDocs/970723b.htm  [last accessed on 20/11/12].

Barron P
They said Janine wouldn’t make it as a singer – now she’s a star! HEARING CONCERN, 2003, 11 (2), 18-19.
Features opera singer Janine Roebuck.

Benari N
Inner rhythm: dance and music for hearing impaired children. MAGAZINE (BRITISH ASSOCIATION OF TEACHERS OF THE DEAF), 1996, Nov, 17-19.

Boone M
Music especially adapted for hard of hearing people. IFHOH JOURNAL, 1990, 11 (3), 17 18.
(Reprinted from SHHH, 1987, Nov Dec.)

Carr G
The development of listening skills, in ‘Audiology in education’, McCracken W, Laoide-Kemp S (eds).London, Whurr; 1997. pp.385-411
Half of the chapter is subtitled ‘Music and musical experience’.

Chasin M
Hear the music … or not. HEARING JOURNAL, 2004, 57 (7), 10-16.
20 tips from the author on listening to music through hearing aids.

Chasin M
Hearing aids and music. TRENDS IN AMPLIFICATION, 2004, 8 (2), 35-47.

Chasin M
Music and hearing aids. HEARING JOURNAL, 2003, 56 (7), 38, 38, 40-42.
Study of the technical requirements of a hearing aid suitable for hard-of-hearing musicians and listeners.

Cheng W
A musical season. SHHH, 1990, 11 (6), 20 23.
Profile of deaf violinist Wendy Cheng.

Clewes N
A musical journey. NETWORK, 2003, 69, 13-14.
Personal account by cochlear implant recipient deafened at 16.

Clewes N
Music workshop held at the AGM. NETWORK, 2003, 70, 7-8.
Workshop for deafened adults led by members of the London Symphony Orchestra.

BATOD MAGAZINE, November 2004.
A special issue of the BATOD Magazine which includes a number of short articles on music in deaf education. A list of contents and short abstracts can be found at:

Dalgarno G
Enabling hard of hearing people to hear music and enjoyably. HEARING CONCERN, 1996, 1 (1), 12-13.

Enabling for Music Project, based at the Department of Electronics, University of York, carries out research and provides practical advice on using technology to help hard of hearing, deaf, deafened, physically disabled and partially sighted people enjoy music.

Dalgarno G
Music appreciation and deafness. NEWSLETTER (NATIONAL COCHLEAR IMPLANT USERS ASSOCIATION), 2004, 21, 7-9.

Dalgarno G
How new technology can help you enjoy music. HEARING CONCERN, 1999,7 (2), 14-16.

Dalgarno G
Music for deaf and partially hearing people with an emphasis on the application of technology to aid perception. Part 3. The scope through electronic equipment and computers. ASSOCIATION MAGAZINE, BATOD, 1989, Mar, 10 16.

Dalgarno G
Music for deaf and partially hearing people with an emphasis on the application of technology to aid perception. Part 4. Visual and tactile representation of music. ASSOCIATION MAGAZINE, BATOD, 1989, May, 8 11.

Deaf cellist wins international award. BRITISH DEAF NEWS, 2002, Aug, 7
Features profoundly Deaf  Catriona Hetherington.

Dryden R
Music comes to Margate. TALK, 1995, 158, 8.
Music programme at the Royal School for Deaf  Children, Margate.

Egan D
Keeping a song in her heart. SEE HEAR, 1996, Jun, 8-9.
Interview with music teacher Valerie Hoppe, deafened in mid-career, and founder of Life after Deafness (LAD), a support group for deaf and hard of hearing people working in the arts.

Edwards J
The Beethoven Fund for Deaf Children in association with the Elizabeth Foundation: Claus Bang master class, 10th-12th March 1995. ASSOCIATION MAGAZINE (BATOD), 1995, Sep, 4.

Fawkes, W. G., & Ratnanather, J. T.
Music at the Mary Hare Grammar school for the deaf from 1975 to 1988. Visions of Research in Music Education, 14 2009.

Folts M
Deaf Children Cannot Play a Musical Instrument…Can They? 1977, VOLTA REVIEW, 79 (7), 453-456.

Franklin J
We got rhythm! TALKING SENSE, 2001, 47 (1), 26-27.
Using Aurhythmics to give access to sound and music for deafblind children at Sense’s Family Centre in Ealing.

Gfeller K et al
Recognition of “real-world” musical excerpts by cochlear implant recipients and normal-hearing adults. EAR AND HEARING, 2005, 26(3), 237-250.

Gfeller K, Knutson J E
Music to the impaired or implanted ear. ASHA LEADER, 2003, 8(8), 1, 12-15.
Hart P
Music: a vehicle for communication. DEAF BLIND EDUCATION, 1989, 4, 19 20.

Gfeller K et al
Musical backgrounds, listening habits, and aesthetic enjoyment of adult cochlear implant recipients. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF AUDIOLOGY, 2000, 11(7), 383-406.

Gfeller K et al
Musical involvement and enjoyment of children who use cochlear implants.VOLTAREVIEW, 2000, 100(4), 213-233.

Gfeller K et al
Preliminary report of a computerized music training program for adult cochlear implant recipients. JOURNAL OF THE ACADEMY OF REHABILITATIVE AUDIOLOGY, 1999, 32, 11-27.

Hay J
Face to face: Colin Thompson. BRITISH DEAF NEWS, 1989, 20(3), 7 8.
Interview with Colin Thompson, RNID Regional Officer (East), about his performances of signed pop songs, family background, and views on deaf education.

Hummel C
The Value of Music in Teaching Deaf Students. 1971,VOLTAREVIEW, 73(4), 224-228, 243-249.

Hawley R
Learning in harmony. TALKING SENSE, 2002, 47 (2), 24-25

Hickish E
A programme for aurhythmics in Cornwall. TALK, 1993, 148, 8-9.

Ivankovic P, Ghilpatrick I
Let’s start the music. PERSPECTIVES IN EDUCATION AND DEAFNESS, 1994, 12 (5), 12-14.
Music activities for preschool children.

Kirk T
How to make a musical chair. TALKING SENSE, 1989, 35(4), 4 5.
‘Listening’ to music through a vibrating chair

Liemohn W, Hargis C, Winter T, Wrisberg C
Rhythm production/perception by deaf students. VOLTA REVIEW, 1990, 92 (1), 13-24.

Liston S L, Yanz J L, Preves D, Jelonek S
Beethoven’s deafness. LARYNGOSCOPE, 1989, 99 (12), 1301 1304.

Leal M
Music perception in adult cochlear implant recipients. ACTA OTO-LARYNGOLOGICA, 2003, 123 (7), 826-835.

Looi V, Sucher C, McDermott H
Melodies familiar to the Australian population across a range of hearing abilities. AUSTRALIAN & NEW ZEALAND JOURNAL OF AUDIOLOGY, 2003, 25 (2), 75-83.

Music for hearing-impaired children in Deaf ability   not disability: a guide for parents of hearing impaired children:  1991

Moore E
BATOD response to the interim reports for music and physical education produced by the National Curriculum Working Groups for these subjects. ASSOCIATION MAGAZINE, BATOD, 1991, Sept, 2 3.

Mitani C et al
Music recognition, music listening, and word recognition by deaf children with cochlear implants. 2007, EAR AND HEARING, 28  (2 Supplement), 29S-33S.

Myers M
When music becomes magic. VOLTA VOICES, 2006, 13 (1), 22-23.
Reports on the successes of a US schoolgirl with a cochlear implant.

Parker C
Sign singing. SIGN MATTERS, 2004, Nov, 16-17.
Reports on a workshop held at the British Deaf Association following on from the popularity of the ‘Deaf Idol’ contest.

Perry N
Workshop 5: Music making for deaf children. In MITCHELL H, IZATT E. Empower ’97: international conference on deaf education. pp. 76-77.
RNID C6967 (REF), C6968

Rocca C
A positive musical experience. 2006, BATOD MAGAZINE, November, 13-15.
Comment upon teaching music at the Mary Hare School for the Deaf.

Signing opera. DEAF ARTS UK, 1998, 7, 8.
English National Opera project with deaf pupils in Exeter.

Shaw J
Teaching music as an aid for speech training of hearing impaired students. ACEHI JOURNAL, 1989, 15 (3), 114 120.

Signing choir heralds Year of Disabled. TALK, 2003, 193, 44.
News item about the signing choir at the Royal School for the Deaf, Derby.

Singers have it in hand. ONE IN SEVEN, 1999, 9, 9.
News item about Music in Motion, a Birmingham-based group of deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing people who sign-interpret pop songs.

Stabej, K.K. et al.
The music perception abilities of prelingually deaf children with cochlear implants (Review) International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology Volume 76, Issue 10, October 2012, Pages 1392-1400

Stewart D A et al
Sign language interpreting: exploring its art and science. 1998. pp. 120-121 deal with interpreting songs.

Suzor’e: the IV International festival of Signed Songs. BRITISH DEAF NEWS, 2003, Apr, 16-17.

Shearer P D
The deafness of Beethoven: an audiologic and medical overview. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF OTOLOGY, 1990, 11 (5), 370 374.

Spears D
Hearing without listening. SOUNDBARRIER, 1990, 40, 11 12.
Interview with deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie.

Spanbauer P
Movement arts: unlocking the world. PERSPECTIVES IN EDUCATION AND DEAFNESS, 1990, 8 (3), 12 15.

Swaiko N
The role and value of an eurythmics program in a curriculum for deaf children. AMERICAN ANNALS OF THE DEAF, 1974, 321-324.

Vistamusic in sight and in touch. TALK, 1990, 135, 18 19
Vistamusic is a visual/tactile method of making music using a computer, developed by Gordon Dalgarno.

Wolf F
Dance of life. TALKING SENSE, 2002, 47 (2), 18-21.
Article on creative arts for deafblind people, which features 9-year-old percussionist Thomas Knight.

Web Resources:
www.matd.org.uk  – Music and the deaf; a charity that runs music and performing arts workshops in schools for deaf and hard of hearing children.

http://www.musicinmotioncharity.co.uk/ – An English charity group that performs popular songs in BSL.

www.zen59695.zen.co.uk/etsam/efm.htm  – Enabling for Music; a charity dedicated to using technology to help people with hearing difficulties listen to music.

Effect of fireworks on hearing/measuring noise

H Dominic W Stiles2 November 2012

Many people find fireworks intrusive and some find them painful because of conditions such as hyperacusis. Here are some articles on percussive noise and hearing. This is an area that has not seen much research recently, but one journal worth noting is Noise and Health.

Books / Reports:

Hinton, J. How to map noise. Pp. 3-7. In. Prasher, D (ed.) Noise Pollution and Health. (2003) NRN Publications, London.

Kerr, G. The effects of blast on the ear. Pp. 279-290 In. Luxon, L and Prasher, D. Noise and its effects. (2007) John Wiley & sons Ltd, Chichester.

Chapters & Articles:

Cornacchia, L and Lovotti, P.
Canalolithiasis due to a firework explosion: A case report.  Audiological Medicine. 2006;
4(2); 82-84.

Fleischer, G; Hoffmann, E; Muller, R et al.
Toy pistols and their effects on hearing.  HNO. 1998; 46(9); 815-820.
(Article in German)

Gupta, D and Vishwakarma, SK.
Toy weapons and firecrackers- a source of hearing loss.  Laryngoscope. 1989; 99(3); 330-334

Maglieri, DJ and Henderson, HR
Noise from aerial bursts of fireworks.  Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 1973; 54(5); 1224-7

Just T, Pau HW, Kaduk W, Hingst V.
[Danger from exploding fireworks and blank firearms].  HNO. 2000 Dec;48(12):943-8.
(Article in German)

Plontke, S; Herrman, C and Zenner, HP.
Hearing damage through fireworks on New Year’s Eve. Questionnaire on the incidence of blast trauma and explosion trauma in Germany at the end of the year, 1998/1999.  HNO. 1999; 47(12); 1017-1019.
(Article in German)

Plontke, SKR; Dietz, K; Pfeffer, C et al.
The incidence of acoustic trauma due to New Year’s firecrackers.  European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology. 2002; 259(5); 247-252.
(Article in German)

Plontke, S; Scheiderbauer, H; Vonthein, R et al.
Recovery of normal auditory threshold after hearing damage from fireworks and signalling pistols.  HNO. 2003; 51(3); 245-250.
(Article in German)

Smoorenburg, GF.
Risk of noise-induced hearing loss following exposure to Chinese firecrackers.  Audiology. 1993; 32(6); 333-343.

van de Weyer PS, Praetorius M, Tisch M.

[Update: blast and explosion trauma].HNO. 2011 Aug;59(8):811-8.

(Article in German)

British Society of Audiology – Lunch and Learn eSeminars

Alex P Stagg19 September 2012

The British Society of Audiology are launching a new series of on-line presentations.

Called ‘Lunch & Learn‘, the eSeminars will be available free of charge and are provided in collaboration with Phonak iLearn. The link will be provided on Monday 1st October on the BSA and Phonak websites.

The Topic of the first seminar is: ‘Snake oil science: using ‘mild deception’ to demonstrate the influence of placebo and patient expectation on hearing aid benefit’. The Seminar will be presented by Prof. Kevin J Munro of the The University of Manchester.


Placebo effects— clinical responses associated with the expectations surrounding treatments rather than with any intrinsic property of the treatment—are wide-ranging and are recognized in medical research and clinical practice. Because of their importance, we examined placebo effects in a hearing aid trial using benefit measures typical of those used in clinical trials: speech in noise tests, sound quality ratings and overall personal preference. Our approach was to compare two hearing aids that were acoustically identical.  However, we used mild deception and informed the participants that they were comparing a conventional hearing aid with a new hearing aid.  On all of our measures, greater benefit was obtained with the ‘new’ hearing aid. Given the potential far reaching impact of these findings, we decided to repeat the study.  Once again, greater benefit was obtained with the ‘new’ hearing aid. These findings have important implications for hearing aid researchers. They suggest a need for caution when interpreting hearing aid trials which do not control for placebo effects. This is highly relevant to the UK National Health Service which currently spends around £60m/yr purchasing hearing aids. Our findings also have important implications for audiologists and hearing aid dispensers. It is likely that hearing aid users with positive expectations are more likely to experience benefit; therefore, the manipulation of expectations potentially offers an additional tool to maximize real benefit for audiology patients.



Audiological Physician Professor Dafydd Stephens (1942-2012)

H Dominic W Stiles11 July 2012

Dafydd Stephens, who died on 2nd of July 2012, was a highly regarded and prolific audiological researcher and clinician. He was a consultant at the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital from 1976-1986, and with Professor Ronald Hinchcliffe one of the founders of audiological medicine in the UK.

A selection of books by Dafydd Stephens

Stephens, Dafydd. Living with hearing difficulties : the process of enablement; edited by Sophia Kramer.   Oxford : Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

Genes, hearing, and deafness : molecular biology to clinical practice; edited by Alessandro Martini, Dafydd Stephens, Andrew P. Read.  London : Informa Healthcare, 2007.

The effects of genetic hearing impairment in the family; edited by Dafydd Stephens and Lesley Jones.  Chichester : John Wiley, 2006.

The impact of genetic hearing impairment; edited by Dafydd Stephens and Lesley Jones.  London : Whurr, 2005.

Developments in genetic hearing impairment; edited by Dafydd Stephens, Andrew Read and Alessandro Martini.  London : Whurr, 1998.

Stephens, Dafydd. Habilitation of hearing impaired children in China : (extracts from a report for UNICEF area office in China and Mongolia).  1998  p. 22-24 (BSA News: The newsletter of the British Society of Audiology ; no. 24 )

Genetics and hearing impairment; edited by Alessandro Martini, Andrew Read and Dafydd Stephens.  London : Whurr , 1996.

Adult audiological medicine : policy document of the British Association of Audiological Physicians / prepared by S.D.G. Stephens… [et al] Cardiff : British Association of Audiological Physicians , 1994


Recent articles from PubMed by Dafydd Stephens

The consequences of tinnitus in long-standing Ménière’s disease.

Stephens D, Pyykkö I, Yoshida T, Kentala E, Levo H, Auramo Y, Poe D.

Auris Nasus Larynx. 2012 Oct;39(5):469-74. Epub 2011 Nov 16.

PMID: 22093767
Adult Hearing Screening: what comes next?

Smith PA, Davis AC, Pronk M, Stephens D, Kramer SE, Thodi C, Anteunis LJ, Parazzini M, Grandori F.

Int J Audiol. 2011 Sep;50(9):610-2. No abstract available.

PMID: 21846168

Interventions following hearing screening in adults: a systematic descriptive review.

Pronk M, Kramer SE, Davis AC, Stephens D, Smith PA, Thodi C, Anteunis LJ, Parazzini M, Grandori F.

Int J Audiol. 2011 Sep;50(9):594-609. Epub 2011 Jul 1. Review.

PMID: 21718228

Use of ICF in assessing the effects of Meniere’s disorder on life.

Levo H, Stephens D, Poe D, Kentala E, Pyykkö I.

Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2010 Sep;119(9):583-9.

PMID: 21033024

Positive experiences and quality of life in Ménière’s disorder.

Stephens D, Pyykkö I, Levo H, Poe D, Kentala E, Auramo Y.

Int J Audiol. 2010 Nov;49(11):839-43.

PMID: 20831459

Edith Whetnall, ENT Surgeon, auralist and pioneering audiologist

H Dominic W Stiles24 February 2012

WHETNALL, Edith  (1910-65)

Edith Whetnall was an ENT surgeon and a pioneer and world authority in paediatric audiology. The daughter of a Wesleyan minister, Edith Whetnall was born in Hull. She trained as a doctor at King’s College Hospital, possibly being inspired to specialize in otology because deafness was diagnosed in her three-year-old niece (Ballantyne). During the war years she was an assistant to the great laryngologist Victor Negus. In 1947 she set up the Deafness Aid Clinic at the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital, London, (the Golden Square Hospital), the year before the NHS was set up. This unit developed into the Nuffield Hearing and Speech Centre in 1963 and she was appointed its first Director. The centre was purpose-built for the diagnosis, assessment and development of hearing and speech in deaf children.

Whetnall realized that some deaf children were ‘holding their own’ in school, and she discovered that this was because the mothers had ‘drawn the child close’ and spoken into the ear (Ballantyne). In the Edith Whetnall memorial lecture for 1978, H.A.Beagley said,

it was part of Edith Whetnall’s philosophy that all, or practically all, children who were clinically deaf had a useful residuum of hearing which could be exploited by early diagnosis and appropriate management. Edith Whetnall’s sweeping generalizations on this point have proved to be amply justified in view of the fact that only a minute fraction of deaf children are totally deaf, and these usually as a result of bilateral cochlear agenesis or severe complications of cerebrospinal meningitis. It is now generally accepted that some residual hearing almost always exists, and sometimes this remnant of hearing is very useful indeed; but without early diagnosis and management such children were virtually doomed to a life of little or no verbal communication or even muteness.

In 1948 the new NHS ‘Medresco’ (MEDical RESearch COuncil) hearing aid was introduced. Ballantyne says this made it possible to train the child’s residual hearing, which was found in the majority of children born deaf or with early acquired deafness. This puts Whetnall on the oralist side of the debate over Deaf education, though hers was what would perhaps be called an auralist approach to deafness, emphasizing the child’s (residual) hearing, rather than oralist  when the emphasis was on speech. Ballantyne again;

Though somewhat sensitive, Edith was fiercely determined and she preached her message with missionary zeal; but throughout her professional life her work was opposed by a vociferous minority of people who held that deaf children should be allowed to develop non-orally within their own ‘deaf culture’. Although this controversy continued for some years, the principles espoused by Edith Whetnall gained widespread support.

Whetnall married Dr Robert Niven in 1939. She was badly injured in a car accident in 1945, following which she suffered from poor health due to myasthenia gravis which eventually ended her life in October 1965 aged only 55. She was co-author with D.B.Fry of The Deaf Child, (1964), and also of the posthumously published Learning to Hear, (1970) which was edited by her husband Robert Niven. Every year there is an Edith Whetnall lecture at the RNTNE Hospital to commemorate her legacy.

Beagley, H. A.  Edith Whetnall’s contribution to British audiology.

GOULD, G. A history of the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital 1974-1982. Journal of Laryngology and Otology, 1998, Suppl 22, 45-47.


Obituary. Hearing, 1965, 20(12), 364. (photo)

John Ballantyne, ‘Whetnall , Edith Aileen Maude (1910–1965)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/57669, accessed 24 Feb 2012]
Note: To the confusion of many, not least myself, the terms Oralism and Auralism seem to have been used fairly interchangeably. Natural Auralism  is a more recent development of these approaches, with “maximal use of residual hearing; the need for meaningful input; view of child as a learner”. I will just add that we do not take sides in these issues – we merely present the sources as clearly as we can.