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A lasting legacy in audiology

Pioneering work in audiology and deaf education at The University of Manchester is still helping people children and families today, thanks in part to charitable work by the Ewing Foundation.

The Ewing Foundation is a charity that helps teachers and schools to work more effectively with deaf children.

The organisation is named after Manchester audiologists Sir Alexander and Lady Irene Ewing, who helped develop the Department for the Education of the Deaf after it was founded at the University in 1919, creating the world's first such university department.

Perhaps the most well-known of the Ewings' achievements is the distraction test, which was used to assess the hearing of young children for decades until the mid-2000s.

It was only superseded when a new generation of audiology specialists at the University helped devise a programme that could test hearing in the first ten days of a baby's life. The NHS newborn hearing screening programme is still used today.

Hearing test rattle

Giving back

The Foundation was established in 1952 after the McAlpine family – whose construction company has built the Millennium Dome, Canary Wharf and Olympic stadiums – sought advice from the Ewings for their profoundly deaf son, Adrian.

The Ewings visited the McAlpines regularly to run sessions with Adrian. The McAlpines were keen to enable other deaf children to benefit from this expertise to help them develop spoken language, and the Ewing Foundation started its activities by demonstrating group hearing aids and speech-training units to parents and teachers.

It went on to send an audiological technician on visits to schools to check and repair audiological equipment, and also funded research positions at the University.

Today, the Ewing Foundation still has a strong relationship with the University and has an office based in the current audiology department.

There is also a personal chair at Manchester, Ewing Professor of Audiology, which is named in honour of the Ewings. This is held by Professor Kevin Munro, who has previously chaired the British Society of Audiology and is the Director of the Manchester Centre for Audiology and Deafness (ManCAD).

Find out more about the 100 years of Deaf education and audiology at The University of Manchester.