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Woman learning sign language

100 years of Deaf education and audiology

A century of pioneering work at our university is still shaping Deaf education and audiology today.

In 1919, the first university-based training programme for teachers of the Deaf was established here in Manchester as the legacy of one man.

One hundred years later and Manchester is still a world leader in this field.

We’re proud to be home to innovative teaching and ground-breaking research which has impacted on the lives of so many Deaf and hard of hearing children and adults.

Explore our past, our centenary celebrations and the difference we continue to make today.


Our successes


Where it began

John Owens Building, University of Manchester, 1908.


The Department of Education for the Deaf is founded at The University of Manchester, the first university department in the world for Deaf education.

It is paid for with £14,425 (£4 million today) from the estate of Ellis Llwyd Jones, who was born Deaf, by his father businessman James Jones.

Irene Rosetta Goldsack (later Ewing) is made the first Ellis Llewyd Jones lecturer.

Along with her husband-to-be, Alexander Ewing, they become world leading practitioners in the fields of teaching Deaf children and audiological investigation, respectively.


The Manchester Centre for Audiology and Deafness is a world leading group of academics, conducting research into hearing loss, deafness and listening difficulties.

ManCAD is the largest provider of training for students of audiology and teachers of the deaf in the UK.

Influencing policy

Policy document being taken out of a briefcase.


The Medical Research Council enlists experts from the department to write a report on “the utility of hearing aids to deaf people”.

This report leads to a better understanding of the needs and capabilities of Deaf children and also wider accessibility of hearing devices to Deaf schools.


Professor Kevin Munro, the head of ManCAD, contributes to National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines for the assessment and management of hearing loss in adults.

Manchester and the NHS

Mechanical hearing aids. Credit: Science Museum, London.


Hearing aids developed by Tom Littler, a University of Manchester researcher who pioneered many engineering and diagnostic advances in the field of audiology, are issued free of charge by the NHS (which is founded in this year).

3,000 hearing aids are issued in the first year.

The NHS dispenses 120,000 hearings aids to the population in the first four years of the NHS.


The Department is still providing quality metrics and evaluations for NHS hearing aids and still works collaboratively with clinical colleagues on a range of basic and translational hearing health issues.

The Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) hearing health theme is a multi-million pound partnership between The University of Manchester and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

It aims to study the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of hearing loss across the lifespan.

Community outreach

The transit van for mobile hearing tests - the 'ladies in the van'.


An audiological technician (or ‘man in a van’) drives around local schools in the area to check and repair group hearing aids and offer advice on their use.

This is a novel approach and a way of getting the expertise and knowledge of the academics based at the University out into the community where it can be used to impact and improve the daily lives of children with listening difficulties.


In order to widen participation, and reduce the effects of inequality, ManCAD researchers have designed a transit van which is able to travel into the community.

These ‘ladies in the van’ have a sound proof booth, to perform hearing tests on young children and vulnerable groups.

Technical innovation

A Western Electric Co. 2A audiometer


The Department imports an audiometer from the US and is among the pioneers of using electrical audiometers to conduct experiments on hearing.

These investigations establish that Deaf children often have residual hearing at low frequencies and this could be enhanced by using listening devices to aid their understanding of speech.


The Hearing Device Research Centre, developed by ManCAD, allows researchers to engage with industry partners in order to evaluate, develop and enhance the next generation of listening devices.

Manchester is at the cutting-edge of investigating the extent to which hearing aids can benefit from the processing power of mobile phones, and researchers are continually exploring the ways in which technology can enhance our research.

Early intervention

Newborn hearing test


The distraction test is developed in the department as a way of reducing the age of diagnosis of hearing difficulties from two to three years to around six months.

A young child sits on their parents lap and sounds are made to the side. If the baby turns to look, they could hear the sound.

Variants of this test will still be used 60 years later.


Researchers at the University have been integral in developing and implementing the NHS Newborn Hearing Screening Programme.

As a result, all newborn babies in the UK now receive a hearing test within the first few hours or days of life.

By identifying hearing problems at this early stage of development, treatments can be administered earlier which increases their impact.


Irene Rosetta Goldsack (Ewing)

1918 - 1970

As well as establishing a Department of Education for the Deaf in 1919, the instruction from Jones’ estate also includes establishing a Ellis Llwyd Jones Professorship or Lectureship to be held there.

In 1952, the Ewing Foundation, named after Irene and Alexander Ewing, is set up by the McAlpine family, whose eldest son was profoundly Deaf and was helped by the Ewings, to develop opportunities for deaf children to learn a spoken language.

In 1970 the T.S. Littler Prize, named after Manchester researcher Tom Littler, is given by the British Society of Audiology for the first time to recognise a sustained contribution to UK audiology.


The legacy of a number of key historical figures of the department lives on.

Since 2008, Chris Plack has been Ellis Llwyd Jones Professor of Audiology and Deaf Education.

The Ewing Foundation still maintains an office in the same building as the Department and interacts with the teaching and research team on a regular basis.

Since 2011, Kevin Munro has held the position of Ewing Professor of Audiology, so named to honour the vast contribution made by the Ewings to science and patient care.


Audiology student

1919 - 1975

The Department continually develops and increases the courses offered to appeal to a wide range of students from different backgrounds and to produce clinicians with a variety of skills.

The following courses are launched:

  • 1919: Two courses in the education of the Deaf. Seven students are enrolled.
  • 1920: Lip reading courses are offered to the public.
  • 1958: A one-year diploma in audiology for teachers of the Deaf.
  • 1972: A one-year Master of Education in audiology and also in Deaf education.
  • 1973: MSc in clinical audiology.
  • 1974: BSc in speech pathology and therapy.
  • 1975 – MSc audiological medicine


Manchester still offers a wide range of courses spanning Deaf education, audiology and speech therapy.

There are opportunities at undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral level, which allows Manchester to continue recruiting and training the researchers and clinicians of the future.

With thanks to the work carried out by Dr Laura Dawes, published in 100 Years of Deaf Education and Audiology at The University of Manchester.


Centenary events

Throughout 2019 we will be hosting a number of events to celebrate Manchester's contribution to Deaf education and audiology.

Deaf children now: changing the conversation

24 - 25 June 2019
Manchester Conference Centre (Pendulum Hotel)


BRC Hearing Health Showcase

9 October 2019
Grand Hall, The Whitworth


100 years of Deaf education and audiology exhibition

14 October - 13 December 2019
Manchester Central Library


Contact us

To find out more about our centenary celebrations and how you can get involved, get in touch.