Proceedings of The Physiological Society

Physiology 2016 (Dublin, Ireland) (2016) Proc Physiol Soc 37, PCA110

Poster Communications

Exploring hearing and deafness - an outreach workshop for all

D. Davies1, F. MacMillan1

1. School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom.


Over the past few years we have endeavored to expand our outreach offering to reach as many sections of the community as possible from school pupils at primary and secondary level to members of the public at science festivals. Thus, it is important that we offer activities that are stimulating and accessible for all ages. With this in mind we developed a workshop to investigate aspects of sound, hearing and deafness that could be adapted to suit a wide range of ages. Within the school context, this workshop is aimed mainly at Primary level KS1 and KS2. In the classroom, the workshop takes the form of short sections introducing concepts interspersed with activities. Starting at ‘what is sound?' we investigate why sounds sound different introducing the major properties of sound (frequency and amplitude), the structure of the ear and deafness. The activities include identifying different sounds, making an ‘ear drum' with kitchen utensils and ‘can we all hear the same things?' - recording sounds made by the pupils (normally singing) and removing the high frequencies, using a commercially available android app, to mimic age-related hearing loss. This workshop links with the primary curriculum incorporating sound and hearing (Yr 2 - parts of the body and senses; Yr 4 -sound waves and the ear). In addition to introducing children to these concepts, it also encourages the use of scientific language, labelled diagrams and graphing data. But, possibly more importantly, it enthuses and generates questions. Evaluation is accomplished via the use of Turning point audience response software and handsets. Pupils are asked if they enjoyed the session and specific questions are directed to what they have learnt in the session. We also ask what will they go home and tell their family about the session, attempting to draw out the most memorable concept. In contrast, in the science festival setting we do not have a captive audience and participants are likely to spend only a very short period of time with any particular stand so the focus is much more on activities, for example testing hearing at high frequencies and adding data to a graph showing highest frequency perceived against age. This is interesting to all age groups as they can see their own data adding to a population survey during the festival. Additional information is provided, in this situation, with posters and by volunteers. In all settings, posing the question ‘can you hear through your teeth?' and answering that question using a portable bone conduction apparatus, designed and constructed by technicians at the University of Bristol, proves to be the most popular activity. The overriding impetus when designing new workshops is to make our outreach contribution interesting and relevant. Achieving this through flexible content is both efficient and rewarding in that it highlights that interest in these concepts crosses many societal boundaries.

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements