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Person at online meeting

The theme of this year’s Deaf Awareness Week (2 to 8 May) focuses on inclusion deafness and highlights the impact of hearing loss on everyday life. Research from within our top-rated History Department examines deafness and hardness of hearing from people’s experiences in 18th century salons and academies, to the relationship between modern technologies and hearing loss in the present day.

Hearing loss and technology 

Dr Coreen McGuire, Lecturer in Twentieth-Century British History at Durham University, focuses on adults who experience hearing loss in her research. This work looks at how modern technologies such as hearing aids, telephones or subtitles can exacerbate or originate from hearing loss. Examples of this is where communication technologies are created by individuals with hearing loss but adopted by the majority hearing community.

Dr McGuire is interested in public engagement and investigating how history and historical objects can be used to facilitate improved communications between practitioners, patients, and academics. In a recent blog post ‘The Pandemic and Teaching Practice: thoughts on subtitles and accessibility’, she outlines why subtitles are a crucial part of the way that we can retain and embed accessibility into learning for methods such as virtual or hybrid meetings. 

Hearing differences 

Research by Dr Ruben Verwaal, Research Fellow at Durham University, into deafness and hearing difference includes investigating people’s experiences of hearing and the ear trumpet in the 18th century and why this large acoustic device became increasingly commonplace among the hard of hearing.

A Wellcome Exploring Research seminar investigates the experiences of the hard of hearing and the use of ear trumpets at art academies, science societies and church congregations and how these social contexts accepted the new technology as a means of increasing participation. 

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