Science staff at Sheffield University campaign for Deaf Awareness Week 2022

5 May 2022

Staff members at the University of Sheffield are working together to shed light on increased rates of deafness and hearing loss in the UK.

Deaf Awareness Week 2022 began on 2 May, and members of the university have been campaigning online for the cause.

More than 70 per cent of people above the age of 70 suffer from hearing loss. 

Marcelo Rivolta, a professor of stem cell biology at the university, said: “With a growing elderly population, the wear and tear on the hearing organ is becoming more prevalent. It is a very serious and growing condition.

“It causes this situation where progressively you feel more isolated. You start feeling that you don’t want to interact with friends because you get tired of making them repeat things over and over again.

“The ear is an absolutely fascinating organ because the perfection in the way that it works, it is very sophisticated. It’s a marvel.

“I started to realise the impact that losing these very precious cells can have on a patient.”

Mr Marcelo Rivolta

Marcelo ran the campaign alongside Rinri Therapeutics. This collaboration aimed to translate technology in the lab into clinics.

Mr Rivolta added: “What we are doing with stem cells may offer a new alternative to therapy. We have reasons to be very optimistic about the future.”

An estimated 151,000 people use British Sign Language in the UK.

According the ONS, in 2017 there were 26,260 people with hearing difficulties in Yorkshire and the Humber alone.

Francesca De Faveri, a postdoctoral research associate at the Hearing Research Group, said: “It is important that we appreciate the obstacles that deaf people face in their everyday life. 

“At the moment there is no cure or treatment for deafness. It’s something that deaf people just learn to live with. We can make their lives much easier if we are aware of how we can make ourselves better understood.”

Francesca De Faveri

The pandemic has made communication difficult for the deaf population with online meetings and face masks.

Ms Faveri added: “Deafness or hearing loss is extremely common, much more than we might think.

“It is crazy how special these cells are and it is very important that we try and protect them from damage because if we lose them we cannot regenerate them.”

Click here to sign up for a talk by Ms Faveri on 10 May at the Pint Science Festival to learn more about her research on hearing loss.


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