UKCoD and The Ear Foundation jointly ran a successful conference in London yesterday, and the wide range of speakers covered all aspects of the latest hearing technologies.
The first contributor was Dr Sue Archbold, Chief Executive of The Ear Foundation. Sue was the teacher of the deaf of the first child in the UK to have a cochlear implant and she helped to establish The Ear Foundation in 1989. With all the latest technologies that are available, her talk set the scene for the day by posing the question “The best time to be deaf?” – she gave some of the answers, but then left the subject open for our other speakers.Brian Lamb OBE, a Public Policy consultant specialising in health and disability issues then asked whether any qualified provider would deliver access to the latest hearing technology for deaf and hard of hearing people. He covered the Health and Social Care Bill, and aspects of “Any Willing Provider” which was introduced in 2008, but hasn’t been used systematically until now.
Brian Walshe of Cochlear Europe gave an interesting overview of today’s hearing technologies, covering hearing aids, middle ear implants, bone conduction implants, cochlear implants and auditory brainstem implants. He was followed by Tim Jones, who has been a hearing aid user for 50 years and a Bone Anchored Hearing Aid user for 10 years. He gave his own BAHA experiences. Fiona Kukiewicz of MED-EL then brought us all up to date on the hybrid device Electric Acoustic Stimulation (EAS) which combines cochlear implants and residual hearing – in other words part a cochlear implant and part a hearing aid, in the same ear. Richard Hughes from Advanced Bionics concluded the morning session by helping us look to the future.
After lunch, Prof Bencie Woll gave a presentation on Technology and the Brain. Bencie holds the Chair in Sign Language and Deaf Studies at University College London, is Director of the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre, and is a Trustee of UKCoD. She talked about the multi-modal nature of language, the core language areas and why we should study both signed and spoken language – do they have common neural bases? Bencie’s colleague at UCL, Prof David McAlpine, continued the theme and looked at what we have already, what we can do to close the gap, and what we are missing. His final message was to get ready for biology, but don’t expect miracles!
Chris Cartwright from Phonak concentrated on hearing aid technology and examined today’s technology at home, in school and in the workplace. Towards the end of his talk, Chris reminded us of the presentation made by Maria Miller, Minister for the Disabled, at UKCoD’s conference last October when she talked about Access to Work. Claire Henson was the next speaker, covering the Sound Advice service offered at The Ear Foundation.
James Raath is a business executive Training Consultant whose sudden deafness through Ménière’s Disease in 2006 resulted in the collapse of a ten-year-old business and, with it, his source of income. He gave a most moving presentation. The day’s conference was then rounded off by Dr Lorraine Gailey, Chief Executive of Hearing Link, and also a Trustee of UKCoD. She left us with the important message that it’s the communication that matters!
Brian Archbold 28 March 2012