Oralism and Hearing Aids By John Walker

How oralism was supported by the development of hearing aid technology.

Oral Education 

Photo:Using amplification technology to support lessons

Using amplification technology to support lessons

University if Sussex

In 1921, the Newbolt Report decreed that English would be the only language taught in education and any subject is also a lesson in English. Also, English would be taught phonetically; a more scientific approach to learning English. This forced teachers, who were deaf, to resign from their positions and the pure oral method started to take hold.

In 1944, the Education Act encouraged a new build of schools for partial hearing children. They used the pure oral method, using invasive speech therapy and threats to get the child to speak. Many of these schools opened, including Mary Hare Grammar School in Newbury, Burwood Park, Tewin Water, Ovingdean Hall and Hamilton Lodge schools.

Hearing Aids 

Photo:Body worn hearing aids

Body worn hearing aids

Deaf Heritage Centre, Dublin

In 1948, National Institute for the Deaf (now known as Action on Hearing Loss) campaigned for the provision of free hearing aids on the National Health Service. It was successful in providing all children with hearing aids by 1952. 

The hearing aids were rudimentary and included one aid per ear, both held in a bra-like strap. The most expensive part was the wire that connected the amplifier to the ear mould - and was regularly chewed on. The expensive wires had to be replaced, which often annoyed the deaf children's teachers. 

The sounds produced by the aid was often distorted and included background noises; it was difficult to distinguish between the sound and the noise. In the classroom, a semicircle of tables would hold a pair of headphones with a microphone for the teacher to speak into. The headphones would heat during the course of an hour and the children would leave the class with red hot ears.

Sir George Godber, Chief Medical Officer 

Photo:Sir George Godber

Sir George Godber

NHS History

"Sir George Godber, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health stated with all his weight of authority that 'inadequate provision for the deaf is the most striking shortcoming of the national health service and that neither medically nor through the administration have we given as much support as we should have done, to the non-medical scientists who might have helped to produce progress'." (Briggs, 1975)

While it was assumed that money was invested in medical cures for deafness, it was realised, in the 1970s, that no real plans for medical intervention existed. Briggs explored the need to identify an alternative resource to supporting deaf children, such as Teachers of the Deaf, Speech Therapists and Audiologists.

This page was added on 20/09/2012.

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.