We are delighted to announce that this month, the AHRC (Arts & Humanities Research Council) funded the Aural Diversity Network which will run for two years from July 2021, and the first network event will be led by the Hearing Aids for Music team at the University of Leeds in September 2021.
Everybody hears differently! But our world is built on an assumption that everybody has the ears of a healthy 18-year old (BSISO226:2003; Sterne 2012). In fact, our hearing changes all the time. We experience varying amounts of hearing loss as we age (presbyacusis). Millions of people suffer from a range of more severe hearing losses related to conditions, disorders, traumas and shocks. And differences in hearing need not necessarily mean loss. Increased sound sensitivity (hyperacusis), aversion to sounds (misophonia), and tinnitus are experienced by many. Even having a cold can affect the way we listen.
The Aural Diversity network seeks to address this complex picture by researching differences in hearing and listening. It is not restricted solely to disability or deafness. Its objectives are to:
- complement existing theoretical and practice-based research by exploring aural diversity;
- review, critique and develop interdisciplinary methodologies for investigating aural diversity;
- refine and develop thinking about enhanced access to the arts and humanities;
- improve hearing care through increased understanding of hearing and listening types;
- communicate findings to academic and non-academic communities;
- build critical mass of expertise which is visible internationally and develop impetus for integration of aural diversity issues.
The initial network comprises the following groups:
- core academic partners at the Universities of Leicester, Salford, Nottingham, Leeds, Goldsmiths, and Queen Mary University of London, with expertise in music, sound studies, acoustics, psychology, hearing sciences and audio technology
- a wider network comprising a large number of academics and practitioners, artists and therapists, scientists and specialists, from many different centres, universities and organsiations across the UK and abroad;
- several organisations, including: the British Tinnitus Association; RNID; GNResound; the Noise Abatement Society; Sound and Music; the Museum of Portable Sound; various Patient & Public Involvement groups; and many more.
- The Attenborough Arts Centre, which has a tradition in accessibility is named as a Project Partner.
The network will stage five workshops:
- Workshop 1 (Leeds, Sep 2021): hearing care and technologies. How the use of hearing technologies may affect music and everyday auditory experiences.
- Workshop 2 (Nottingham, Jan 2022): scientific and clinical aspects. How an arts and humanities approach might complement, challenge, and enhance scientific investigation.
- Workshop 3 (Salford, May 2022): acoustics of listening differently. How acoustic design of the built and digital environments can be improved.
- Workshop 4 (London, Sep 2022): aural diversity in the soundscape. Includes a concert featuring new works by aurally diverse artists for an aurally diverse audience.
- Workshop 5 (Leicester, Jan 2023): music and performance. Use of new technologies in composition and performance.
The network builds on the Aural Diversity project led by Principal Investigator Andrew Hugill. It will benefit musicians and sonic artists by increasing understanding of hearing difference, leading to new audiences for accessible performance events. It will change compositional practice for a music that adapts to listeners’ needs. It will contribute to the study of hearing in literature, film etc. It will impact Soundscape Studies by challenging the widespread acceptance that current standardisations for perception of sound environments equates to standardisation of the ‘average’ listener. It will influence Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. It will help shape policy by improving the sound environment. It will benefit patient groups by understanding the experiences of people with auditory dysfunctions. It will inform healthcare practitioners to improve audiology and hearing devices.
The general public will be invited to attend workshops and included via the mailing list. If you would like to be added to the mailing list, please use the following contact form and leave your name and email address. Feedback to previous conferences showed the value of allowing the public to steer the research. Participants stressed the importance of “a variety of voices and experiences, from academic to everyday life”. The network will maintain a website and social media, and publish peer-reviewed articles
We will post more information about the first network event, including a call for papers, in due course.