01:36pm Tuesday 31 March 2020

Prime Time TV breaks its silence on deafness

With the show due to be aired on Monday 12 July on BBC One, the UK’s only leading dedicated to medical research into deafness and related conditions, is keen to see how the leading deaf actress is portrayed.

Starring profoundly deaf actress Genevieve Barr, the new drama is centred on the character Amelia Edwards, an 18 year old who is successfully fitted with a cochlea implant (CI) and whose subsequent struggle to adapt to the hearing world is complicated further when she witnesses a murder. While deafness is a welcome subject to see broached on prime time television, the hope is it will spur further debate on the impact the condition has on people’s daily lives and help to lift the stigma surrounding deafness.

Vivienne Michael, Chief Executive of Deafness Research UK, said:  “Any new show on prime time television dealing with the problems deafness can cause is to be welcomed wholeheartedly. For too long, those in the deaf community have experienced stigma due to a lack of understanding about the challenges they face on a daily basis.

“With over one in seven (9 million people) experiencing hearing loss at some level, one of the future challenges to broadcasters is to make their programmes more representative and build deaf issues into standard story lines.

“Deafness touches most families in the country in some way, and we don’t feel this is currently reflected in TV storylines to the same extent as other health issues such as cancer, pregnancy, obesity, etc.”

In the first episode of The Silence, it is understood that we will find out that Amelia Edwards has benefitted from cochlear implants. Deafness Research UK is one of the foremost innovators in the field of CI research; pioneering research by Dr Margaret Tait funded by Deafness Research UK has recently shown that babies as young as 12 months who receive CIs develop communication skills comparable to normal hearing children. For older children and adults who are fitted with CIs later in life it is much more challenging to adapt and develop communication skills.

Education is also a key issue and one intriguing aspect of this new drama is the way the show attempts to demonstrate the sound that people with cochlea implants experience. This is important, as people tend to mistakenly believe that a cochlea implant simply ‘restores normal hearing’, when it does not. The brain needs to learn to recognise sounds again (or perhaps as in Amelia’s case, for the very first time). The research by Dr Tait above is also backed by the research work of Dr David McAlpine, also funded by Deafness Research UK, highlighting the primary role of the brain in processing sound.

Deafness Research UK highlights these issues to schools, colleges, community groups and companies across the country with its innovative Bionic Ear Show. Sponsored by BUPA, the show raises awareness of hearing loss, including how cochlear implants work and highlights how to protect your hearing.

Deafness Research UK would like to commend the BBC for bringing to prime-time television a new drama that tackles these issues surrounding hearing impairment and restoring hearing and giving an opportunity to a deaf actress to star in this drama.  We will be following The Silence with interest and hope to see more productions such as this one in the future

Anyone interested in more information on cochlea implants and the latest research, as well as other information on deafness, can contact the charity’s Information Service on [email protected] or visit the website at www.deafnessresearch.org.uk


Photo (C) Photovandal on Flickr under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike licence


Notes to editors:

About the Bionic Ear Show
The Bionic Ear Show continues the campaign first launched in 2006 to highlight that hearing is as important as sight and to encourage people to protect their ears against potential damage. In launching the campaign, Deafness Research UK is stressing that young people today are at far greater risk of going prematurely deaf than their parents because they are listening to mobile phones and MP3 players at far too loud a volume and far too often.

A national survey found that over a third of all 16-34 year olds listened to their MP3 players for more than an hour a day and 14% listened for more than 28 hours a week. It also showed that 54% of people did not realise that listening to loud music on an MP3 player, in a nightclub or at a concert could damage their hearing.

More than a third of people who have experienced ringing in their ears after listening to loud music listen to their MP3 player every day. Ringing in the ears, or tinnitus, is a sign of damage to the hearing system.

For more information visit www.bionicearshow.org/ or book the show for your school, community group or organisation: call Laura Ganpot on 0207 6798951 or email [email protected]

About Deafness Research UK

  • Deafness Research UK is the country’s only charity dedicated to finding new cures, treatments and technologies for deaf, hard of hearing and other hearing impaired people.
  • The charity supports high quality medical research into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all forms of hearing impairment including tinnitus.
  • The Deafness Research UK Information Service provides free information and advice based on the latest scientific evidence and informed by leading experts. The Information Service can be contacted on Freephone 0808 808 2222
  • For more information on research into deafness, tinnitus and other hearing conditions, log on to the website at www.deafnessresearch.org.uk where you can access a wide range of information. Alternatively you can e-mail Deafness Research UK at [email protected]
  • One in seven people in the UK – almost nine million people – suffer hearing loss.
  • Deafness Research UK was founded in 1985 by Lord (Jack) and Lady Ashley of Stoke.
  • In January 2008, Action for Tinnitus Research (ATR) was linked with Deafness Research UK under a uniting direction order under section 96(6) of the Charities Act 1993.

Press enquiries
Jon Gardner, BeyondPR. www.beyondpr.co.uk Mobile 07930 697773. Direct line 0114 275 6996. e-mail: [email protected]


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