The Medical Research Council Institute of Hearing Research (1977-2018)
IHR’s main building at University Park as seen from the tram (2016)
A brief history of IHR and its work
MRC IHR was founded in 1977 after a requirement of the 1970 Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act for “an institute for hearing research ... to have the general function of coordinating and promoting research on hearing and assistance to the deaf and hard of hearing”. It was originally set-up with a HQ in Nottingham and clinical-research outstations in hospitals in Cardiff, Glasgow, Nottingham, and Southampton. It was led by four Directors: Professor Mark Haggard (1977-2002), Professor David Moore (2002-2012), Professor Alan Palmer (2012-2015), and Professor Michael Akeroyd (2015-2018).
IHR was one of only a handful of centres around the world that delivered interdisciplinary research on hearing. Its scientists studied a broad range of topics in hearing, from genetics through neuroscience and psychophysics to quality of life, and overall earned a central role in UK auditory science and a corresponding international reputation. Its research highlights since 1977 include (together with the leads of the programmes they were part of):
IHR was also a leader in developing technology for scientific and clinical use. Examples include:
- The development of questionnaires now widely used in research and clinical practice, such as the Glasgow Hearing Aid Benefit Profile (GHABP), the Glasgow Benefit Inventory (GBI), and the Speech, Spatial, and Qualities of Hearing Questionnaire (SSQ) (Stuart Gatehouse).
- The development of standard speech tests, such as the ASL sentences, FAAF words, and Automated Toy Test (Mark Haggard and Quentin Summerfield).
- The development of research equipment, such as the IHR Universal Filter, the IHR Click Box, and the IHR fMRI noise-cancellation system (Alan Palmer).
- The development of fast methods of otoacoustic emissions (Roger Thornton)
- "Sparse sampling" for auditory fMRI (Mark Haggard, Quentin Summerfield, Alan Palmer).
Another key purpose to IHR was working with policy makers in the public sector to improving the services offered to hearing-impaired people. Perhaps the most influential were:
- Evaluating the national cochlear implant program (Quentin Summerfield)
- Helping instigate universal neonatal screening (Adrian Davis) and establishing the Nottingham Paediatric Cochlear Implant Programme (Mark Lutman)
- Modernizing hearing aid services in Scotland (Stuart Gatehouse).
Many of the UK’s hearing scientists at some point in their careers worked at IHR as programme leaders, post-doctoral scientists or PhD students. Countless others, be they scientists, administration or technical, were all key to IHR’s discoveries and its impact.
The majority of IHR’s funding was from the intramural scheme of the Medical Research Council, along with substantial contributions from the research offices of the English, Welsh, and Scottish Health Departments and countless research grants from other funders, large and small. Three of IHR’s previous research teams at Nottingham are now funded by MRC programme grants (Prof Michael Akeroyd, Dr Graham Naylor; Dr Katrin Krumbholz) -- see Hearing Sciences in the Division of Clinical Neuroscience of the School of Medicine for further details of their work.
We thank everyone who has ever been part of IHR for their contributions since 1977. Everyone’s work has added to our scientific understanding of hearing and thus helped lead to assistance to all those with hearing difficulties.