Hearing loss does not discriminate. Anyone can be subject to hearing loss, no matter the race, economic background, age, gender, or any other factors. However, just as anyone can develop hearing loss, people can also create positive changes for those experiencing it.
February is Black History Month, so we are celebrating three outstanding African Americans who have made honorable contributions to better hearing. The following people have contributed tremendous developments in the field of hearing healthcare, such as creating educational opportunities for individuals with hearing loss, advocating hearing protection for workers, and creating technology for hearing aids.
James E. West
With more than 350 patents, James E. West is a prolific inventor who has made a huge impact on the world. He created the Electret Microphone, revolutionizing the hearing aid industry. West and a colleague, developed the foil electret microphone which is a tiny, inexpensive, and highly sensitive microphone perfect for hearing aids. This key innovation was created while they were working for the Acoustics Research Department at Bell Laboratories. It is still used today in almost all devices with microphones, such as audio recording devices, video recorders, baby monitors, and cell phones.
Andrew Foster was an educator for the deaf and hard of hearing. He lost his hearing from spinal meningitis as a child. He is a groundbreaking figure, despite the loss of his hearing. Earning his bachelor’s degree from Gallaudet College (now Gallaudet University) and being the first to do so, Foster made it his life’s mission to make sure an education was available to the hearing impaired and deaf. Foster founded 32 schools for the deaf and hard of hearing in Africa across 13 countries. He was dubbed the “Father of Deaf Education in Africa.”
Dr. Derek Dunn
Dr. Derek Dunn, who earned his doctorate in speech and hearing, was an advocate for preventing hearing loss at work. Dr. Dunn was a leader in this sector of hearing healthcare. He served as the Acting Associate Director for Science at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and a captain in the U.S. Public Health Service. With dedication to the field of hearing health, Dunn completed a postdoctoral fellowship in cochlear morphology and electron microscopy. His personal slogan was, “What have you done for the worker today?”
These three individuals have made monumental contributions to the field of hearing healthcare. Rightly deserving their place in history, their contributions extend far beyond their own careers. They also mentored other minorities in their specific fields for the sake of future developments in education, technology, and science.
If you would like to learn more about hearing health, contact us at Pure Sound Hearing Aids.